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The Importance of First-Party Data

July 23rd, 2019   ||    by John R. Osborn

For most marketers, first-party data is the natural starting point for growing their business around their best customers. Practices such as retention, retargeting, and referral programs logically lead to this growth. Data gathered from customers and suppliers has always been the lifeblood of a company’s marketing success.

What’s the Difference Between First-, Second-, and Third-Party Data?

First-party data is owned by the marketer and can come from a variety of sources within the organization: CRM platforms, email lists, direct sales, online forms, store traffic, market research data, product development, customer experience research, payment methods, cookies from company website visits, and many more.

Second-party data is the first-party data of other companies, usually part of co-marketing programs.

Third-party data comes from outside providers, often suppliers that aggregate data from other third-party data sources to help marketers identify and reach new prospects. Cross-matching helps avoid duplicated data in ad buys.

How Do Marketers Organize First-Party Data?

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are built from first-, second-, and third-party data, according to HubSpot. CDP BlueConic explained how CDPs create identity profiles, identity graphs, and identifiers. For instance, a profile can “resolve multiple identities into a single, consolidated identity” while an “identity graph allows you to associate, but not consolidate, multiple identities with one master ID.”


When using first-party data, the marketer knows how the data was gathered and that it was privacy compliant. Marketers also understand how any machine learning, AI, or algorithms optimize for marketing purposes; it is not an external “black box” solution where those tools are proprietary and therefore unknown. Second- and third-party data sources, on the other hand, can vary widely in quality, trustworthiness, transparency, and pricing.


First-party targeting cannot drive growth at scale without second- or third-party data partnerships, due to the need to reach out and apply customer insights to new media types, distribution channels, and content environments. However, with company consumer privacy responsibilities increasing (GDPR, CCPA) and third-party data quality a primary issue, marketers must vet data providers before hiring them.

What’s the First Step for T/V buyers?

  1. Assess current data capabilities and evaluate approaches to building data management capabilities (such as a CDP) in order to unify and organize a powerful first-party platform.
  2. Research and understand when, where, how, and with whom to partner. Criteria include best-tailored quality of data, measurement, reporting, activation capabilities, and trustability.
  3. Set up first experiments in applying (but not giving away) first-party data to second- and third-party solutions.

Although more transparent and personalized, it is important to remember that second-party data is necessary for increasing your audience scale, establishing data buy relationships, and bridging the gap between first- and third-party data.

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