How 3rd Party Data is Collected

One of the things you will come across at some point in your programmatic buying career is 3rd party data. 3rd party data is data that you buy, include in your campaign, and test in order to reach your campaign goals. 3rd party data is any data you use that isn’t your own.

Many people over the years have asked how 3rd party data is collected. Here is a quick run down of it works from buyer to seller.

Let’s say you are running a travel campaign for one of your clients, for this example let’s create a fictional hotel, Bates Motel.

Bates Motel has come to you and says they have a ROAS goal of 4. You decide that on top of retargeting and prospecting you want to try some new segments of 3rd party data.

You set up your campaign, when it’s time to choose your targeting you go and select Bluekai as your provider and choose a segment that has a high affinity for your target. It will look something like this: choosing 3rd party data

We know that Bates Motel is (originally) in California, so we select a segment that is “in-market” to travel there. The idea is that with such high affinity our campaign should be right on target.

But how is this data acquired? How exactly does third party data get sold?

Ok, let’s look at Kayak, if you go to and you have Ghostery installed on your browser, take a quick look at the pixels that are being fired as the page loads. In it, you will notice two that are relevant to our conversation here, Bluekai and Exelate.
example 3rd party data

What Kayak does is they have these Bluekai and eXelate pixels implemented all across their site so when a user searches for “hotels in California” that user gets tagged as “in-market traveler to California” Blue Kai and eXelate then pump this information via their API to all their partners and their partners publish it on their platforms to be used by traders and others (at a cost). This process is entirely automated since there are tons of data moving across thousands of publishers, exchanges, and DSP’s every day.

3rd party data can be sold as broad: “People in California” it can be sold as targeted: “People searching for hotels in California” and it can be sold as hyper-targeted: “People searching for Hilton in California.”

My experience with 3rd party data has been hit or miss. In the past 3rd party data companies have held onto segment data for too long and the intent, interest, and in-market sentiment is no longer there for that user. The next evolution in 3rd party data is for the DSP’s to start offering it themselves and possibly cut out the middle man, after all, it makes sense since their pixel is installed on so many sites already.

I hope this clears up any confusion about 3rd party data and how it is collected and sold. If you have any questions please leave them below in the comments.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.