This week, The Wall Street Journal published a story about the vast differences in accuracy from the many available data vendors. The story was based on a study conducted by the agency Mediasmith, with media funded by Quantcast. The study was large and expensive — eleven vendors, six segments each, in both the US and UK — here’s why we were willing to pay for it.

First, we believe in the value of third party targeting data, and many in our industry don’t. Third-party data is often dismissed as inaccurate or viewed as a class below first-party data. Some advertisers and publishers are justifiably skeptical given their bad experiences, which can include underperforming campaigns or campaigns with no delivery. Poor-performing products have poisoned the well for third-party targeting data. But an important distinction is often lost: All data vendors are not created equal.

Marketing from data vendors doesn’t help. We all sound the same, making it impossible for publishers and advertisers to get real clarity about the quality of different data vendors. Many brand name vendors that are expected to perform don’t live up to expectations. I imagine that if I used Tide in my laundry and my clothes still came out dirty, I’d question the value of laundry detergent too.

Thankfully, we now have validation services such as Nielsen OCR that can objectively compare the accuracy of different vendors. When working with potential customers, we’ve looked to these validation services to demonstrate our advantage, benchmarking our performance against other vendors they might be considering. The proof is in the performance, not in the marketing.

Which gets us to why we funded this Mediasmith study. We saw that there was no incentive for others to pay for this large-scale controlled testing. Certainly not other data vendors. But even for advertisers and publishers, many of whom aren’t aware of the vast performance differences, it would be hard to justify the time and expense.

Quantcast has an unfair advantage over other targeting vendors, not because of our involvement in the study, but because of our massive proprietary dataset, technology advantage and modeling expertise. That sounds like marketing, but these advantages translate into real benefits for our advertiser and publisher customers. We invested in this study because no one else would, and because it’s time for targeting customers to raise questions about the accuracy of their data vendors.