Data is the new black

This week I was at an industry event chatting with a couple of old mates – one from a traditional media background who now works on the client side, and one from a media agency – about the use of data in our industry.

While my agency friend, perhaps unsurprisingly, was up to speed with most of the huge amount of data now available to advertisers and agencies, this was in stark contrast to my other friend who was unaware of the wealth of information at the disposal of professionals in the industry today.

I guess my point is that there are still plenty in media who don’t yet utilise the huge amount of data-points available to all businesses. It almost feels like a failure on our part when we realise that the message has not yet permeated throughout the whole industry, especially when there are so many easy to use tools and analytics packages out there.

The web analytics industry has come a long way in recent years. What used to be a techie subject for tracking server performance and website hits (which clearly went over my head) has evolved into a dream for webmasters, marketers and media planners. Conversions, geography, off and online media and a host of other areas can be measured and cross-referenced. This can be combined with powerful tools like Insights for Search, or Google’s keyword tool, to give a snapshot of what people are searching for and interested in.

As the digital industry has grown, there seemed to be two extremes in terms of the way marketers have been using data: those focused on direct response and e-commerce players who had data at the heart of their strategy on one side, and more traditional brand marketers who were yet to engage with the hard stats online (either through choice, or lack of understanding) on the other.

But the good news is that more recently there’s a new breed of media and marketing industry professional coming to the fore, predictably a mixture of the two extremes: the data-driven brand marketer and comms planner, with appreciation of traditional brand values, but with a mind hell-bent on data to prove success (or failure). It is these people who increasingly need to be at the centre of business and media decisions as clients and agencies alike become rightly obsessed with quality, value and ROI in these cash-tight times.

It’s up to search engines, media owners and the analytics industry to make sure all my mates are data-driven and better versed in the power of numbers in the months to come.

  • Nick Manning

    Mark, this is completely right.

    Data-backed evidence of ROI is now pretty much mandatory these days but the industry has been very slow to provide it.

    Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the recession will be the acceleration of the role of data as central to the planning process.

  • James Smythe

    Hi Mark.

    Good article. I think Google’s approach of reaching out to brand marketers with intelligent research & use of data is helping.

    I think what brand marketers fear is a simple data = proof approach. After all, plenty of FMCG advertisers are unable to prove the effect of TV advertising with quality techniques like econometric modelling, but we still understand that TV works. We just can’t always measure it well enough!

    Trad media don’t have the right measures in place – most trading currencies are useless for evaluation. A consumer-oriented rather than media-oriented approach would help, and Google may be the only media owner in a position to make that happen.