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Insights from 400+ digital marketers reveal why digital advertising data demands reimagining in the wake of the digital advertising explosion.

A 2018 Fortune article described the growing quantity of consumer data available in the digital sphere as an explosion that was impacting the way businesses operated. Fast forward to 2022. Four years later and with two years of a global pandemic under our belts, what was once described as a digital data explosion is now at the level of proliferation. And it’s leaving a seemingly bottomless crater in the middle of our digital advertising processes. 

We spend more time in digital environments than ever before. Climbing out of bed to sit down at the computer is a reality for an increasingly remote workforce, and nearly everyone has some kind of online presence they maintain for themselves, whether it’s a Facebook profile, a Tik Tok account, or a Reddit handle. In the digital world, we can simultaneously embody our identities as consumers, workers, and social personas, carrying out actions across digital platforms in tandem. 

So it makes sense that businesses are investing more and more resources into digital advertising to deliver their value proposition to consumers. And a diverse and growing number of advertising technology offerings are being launched to satisfy the demand. From new ad platforms to entirely new channels to tools designed to ease the analysis of ad campaign performance data, brands have no shortage of choice when it comes to where, when, how, and who they reach with their messages.

Running Toward the Crater

Everything wrong with digital advertising data (and how to fix it)

But for you, a digital marketer tasked with carrying out digital advertising, it can feel like you’re running toward that bottomless crater with your ad campaign in tow. You give your campaign the best chance of flying with research and solid strategic know-how, only watch it sail off into the distance without you…without any idea where it will land. You stand at the edge and wonder how to bridge the gap between where you came from: building and launching a cross-channel campaign; and where you want to go: actionable campaign insights and optimization. 

Joinr surveyed 402 digital marketing professionals in an attempt to learn how they’re managing the gap left in the wake of the explosion of paid digital advertising data. Digging into their responses yielded some surprising insights about the challenges and opportunities for marketers in our heightened digital landscape. 

59.5% of marketers who use in-platform analytics agree they spend too much time managing ad data and not enough time actually getting actionable insights for their campaigns. And 63.3% of marketers that don’t have a tech stack are also unhappy with the amount of time they spend managing data rather than putting it to use.

Two groups of SMB marketers face more challenges when it comes to time spent managing ad data.

The ad data confidence chain

Advertising data comes in tricky packaging: separate spreadsheets full of metrics that are defined differently depending on the ad platform. Getting all of that data out of spreadsheet limbo and into a single repository isn’t easy. 

69.5% of digital marketers surveyed agreed that aggregating data is painful. What kind of technology are these agreeable marketers using?

Data aggregation is painful for the majority of digital marketers.

Across the board, data aggregation is a challenge. But it’s absolutely essential to setting up the rest of the data cleaning and standardization process. Unfortunately, aggregating in yet another spreadsheet is not an adequate solution. 

According to research, 88% of all spreadsheets contain at least one error. And if the security of your data and systems is a concern, consider this: According to Cisco, “Microsoft Office formats, including Excel, make up the most prevalent group of malicious file extensions in emails.” Meaning sending spreadsheets back and forth between various stakeholders could result in someone inadvertently opening a malicious file from an untrustworthy source.

Digital marketing managers and directors spend a surprising amount of time aggregating data. 33.33% of managers and 34.67% of directors spend 5-10 hours per week aggregating ad data, whereas the majority of individual contributors spend between zero and 4 hours on centralizing data. Overall, the majority of survey respondents fall somewhere between 1 and 10 hours of data aggregation work every week.

Digital marketing managers and directors spend more time aggregating data than individual contributors.

The process of cleaning ad data involves removing superfluous information from aggregated data and standardizing metrics across platforms and channels. 69% of marketers surveyed say they spend too much time cleaning paid ad data. Out of those surveyed who use in-platform analytics only to evaluate cross-platform campaigns, 60.9% feel that cleaning ad data is too time-consuming.

56% of respondents agree that it’s hard to identify insights or optimizations for paid ad campaigns. The level of difficulty and enormous time investment involved in aggregating and transforming data is almost definitely a major cause of this challenge. But once marketers have identified an underperforming ad or group of ads, the next logical step is to test changes. 

82% of digital marketers agree: more and/or better testing is needed.

Testing is yet another broken link in a chain of problems that marketers face when attempting to understand cross-platform advertising performance. Experts recommend testing one ad element at a time. For example: create two different versions of the ad’s headline and leave the rest the same to determine which headline performs better. It’s a relatively simple method. But understanding testing outcomes, again, requires visibility into normalized data, as well as accurate and timely insights. 

Perhaps more than any other digital marketing program, the road to success for paid digital advertising can be followed if one can just read the signs clearly along the way. And all roads lead back to the need for a simple, reliable method of aggregating and standardizing paid ad data.

Nearly everyone wants to do a better job testing campaign elements.

No one would argue with the importance of accurate data in gleaning actionable insights for marketing campaign optimization. But brand marketers seem to be split in their levels of confidence in data accuracy. 49.75% of all survey participants agreed or agreed strongly with the problem statement, “I’m not confident about my data’s accuracy,” while 50.25% disagreed.

Digital marketers are split when it comes to confidence in data accuracy.

71.25% of all respondents agreed that comparing cross-channel advertising data is a major challenge. And 65.25% said that pinpointing when to move budget between tactics or channels isn't easy.

Comparing data across channels is a major pain point.

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What do we mean by in-platform analytics? These are the siloed reports provided by advertising platforms like Facebook and Google. Marketers who evaluate performance this way visit Facebook and Google separately, take a look at the performance data for each platform and make a decision as to whether their campaign is successful or not. 

The problem? Your campaign stretches across Facebook and Google. And the two platforms offer different metrics for performance. What seems successful on Facebook could look less than satisfactory on Google or vice versa. But appearances are deceiving. You won’t have an accurate understanding of campaign success unless you aggregate and standardize your data prior to analysis.


All other downstream data processes and analyses can only be based on siloed in-platform analytics.


Data cannot be compared across channels. Non-standardized data cannot be combined with other data sources to accurately attribute success. Testing is difficult without visibility into cross-channel performance. Campaign optimization is based on guesswork.

If activities like measuring campaign performance and shifting budget to optimize ad spend create tension headaches for digital marketers, attribution is a full-blown migraine. Digital marketers want to understand the most effective channels and platforms for their campaigns. But survey respondents told us that getting to the bottom of which one is actually leading to a desired action is their biggest challenge. 25.4% of survey respondents said that attribution is the biggest problem they face in their marketing efforts. This was followed by gleaning actionable insights (14.3%) and ensuring data accuracy (14.3%).

”Attribution surfaces which interactions a person or group of people took along their journey toward a desired outcome or ‘conversion’ point.” – HubSpot

Attribution is the biggest challenge for digital marketers today.

Few marketers combine CRM and revenue data with their advertising data.

Email marketing and website analytics data are at the top of the list of sources marketers combine with paid ad data to understand performance. However, the data sources which could give them the best indication of the success of their advertising, CRM, and revenue data, are the ones the least amount of survey respondents combine with their paid ad data. 

Why? It’s most likely that a large number of marketers don’t have the functionality required to combine revenue data. In fact, of marketers that are relying solely on in-platform analytics to assess campaign performance, 75% do not combine revenue data. And this seems to have a meaningful impact on attribution. 65% of those using in-platform analytics agree that attributing success to the proper channel and pinpointing when to move budget between channels is difficult. 

Follow Your Campaigns Across the Divide

Consider this: Unless your campaign is so successful that every ad leads to direct conversions, using ad data from siloed platforms or attempting to aggregate and clean data in error-prone spreadsheets is like throwing your careful campaign planning and strategy work into the bottomless data crater. Let’s face it: no campaign, no matter how thoughtful or well-researched, is without opportunities for improvement and optimization. You’ll never reach perfection, but you can keep pushing toward it…IF you have the right information at your fingertips. 

The analysis of standardized, cross-channel advertising performance data is the only way to confirm what you did right, learn what didn’t hit the mark, and to effectively test new campaign elements to push your campaign toward perfection. But our survey results indicate that an astounding number of digital marketing professionals (nearly 70%) struggle to even get past data aggregation. 

Our perspective? Siloed and manual data analysis cannot fill the gap left by the digital advertising data explosion. Every campaign is an opportunity to learn, improve, and make an impact. Finding a partner that can provide the tools to clean and fully leverage paid ad campaign data is essential to forging a path across the gap between launching ad campaigns and optimizing strategies now and in the future.

Your solution for fast, simple access to clean, standardized, usable ad data is just a click away. 

So why do digital marketers seem to be unclear as to whether they are using accurate data or not? For individual contributors, managers, and directors, the answer likely lies in the differing experience levels with data cleaning and analysis best practices. 

But C-level respondents seem to be more confident in the data than the rest of the digital marketing functions. 64.86% of C-level respondents disagree or strongly disagree with this problem statement. While the rest of the respondents are closer to the day-to-day data management and analysis, C-level professionals likely only touch the data when it’s been massaged into a report and presented to them. 

Regardless of the role, confusion over data accuracy is a major indicator of a need for a single source of truth across platforms and channels when it comes to advertising performance data.

With ad budgets increasing (worldwide digital ad spend grew from $332.84 billion in 2020 to $389.29 billion in 2021), the flow of data isn’t going to recede any time soon. Brands with hefty advertising budgets can afford to expand their channel strategies to capture more of their audience. From paid social and programmatic, to connected TV and display, the options for online advertising seem endless. 

But this wave of opportunity comes with the difficulty of measuring campaign performance across channels–a task that only becomes possible when proprietary metrics taken from in-platform analytics can be aggregated and standardized so marketers can make an apples-to-apples comparison.

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The process of ad data management and reporting includes numerous steps. But there are three major parts of the process that must be intact to successfully evaluate performance, receive actionable insights, and enact winning optimizations: data aggregation, data standardization, and accurate reporting and attribution. Breaking the links between these process points creates problems that snowball, leading to faulty data and insights, wasted budget, and ineffective campaigns.

The marketers who struggle with these areas the most are those who use in-platform analytics to perform piecemeal analysis of their cross-platform campaigns, as well as those without a tech stack. But no marketers are immune. Unless you have a tool purpose-built to simplify the process of consolidating and transforming your advertising data, you’re likely dealing with consequences like these:

Managing DataData AggregationTesting DataData ConfidenceComparing DataData AttributionConnecting Data

Fix your advertising data now.

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