Before I start, I'd like you all to do something for me.
Think about the last time you heard the word "data". Less than two minutes ago, I would gamble. After all, it is the new gold and, like gold, it is becoming an obsession for a lot of people.
However, I think this obsession is in danger of becoming a problem, as a lot of these people (clients, agencies and media owners alike) have not yet worked out how to use it effectively.
Everyone knows they need to use digital to harness data and there has been a fair amount of investment in technology and platforms and this is great. There is a wonderful opportunity for media agencies to stake a claim in the burgeoning cash-rich ad tech sector if handled properly.
But, in the gold rush, agencies have to be aware of the dangers. By putting too much emphasis on the platform or the process, you forget the critical bit - the human element.
At its core, data gives us a never-before-known ability to understand human behaviour and throw away the reliance on claimed behaviour from flawed surveys. But it is only effective if it is underpinned by a deep understanding of the audience and is connected with all media touchpoints. You first have to understand what the audience wants and where they want it.
The industry needs to differentiate strategy from tactics, and then from the platforms that enable these tactics. The platform is not the hero. Data needs to be seen as a strategic asset that drives value across the full marketing cycle - whether acquisition or retention. This is what advertisers are concerned with - not how do I use data to buy my media better, but how do I use data to make my digital business more efficient and more profitable?
Data also needs to be used to feed your ideas and make them meaningful - data is no good sitting unused in isolation of your planning teams. It may need to be translated, but it is pure gold in providing human understanding and informing where and when to compete. If you knew it was there, you wouldn't let gold sit deep underground without mining it; why allow the same thing to happen with the sources of today's insight?
As well as investing in technology, agencies also need to invest in the development of ideas from rich data insight. We have created an Ideas function that works closely with our strategists and insight directors to curate bigger, better cross-platform ideas. These ideas often arrive as the result of a deep digital insight that is then pushed back down through our business and brought to life through our cross-discipline experts.
Data may be the new gold, but remember that gold is dense and can weigh you down if you try to carry too much.
Paul Frampton is the managing director at MPG Media Contacts.
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