Are we allowing Big Data to get too big? Is it in fact just a euphemism for ‘lost in data’? With 90% of all the world’s recorded information created in the last 2 years, Nicky McShane, European Managing Director of WPP Digital’s Media Innovation Group, looks at how brands make use of this rich source of consumer data without drowning in a flood of irrelevant information.
It’s been interesting to watch how rapidly ‘big data’ has crept centre stage, with industry events now putting it high on their conference agendas. I’m stuck for choice over the number of dedicated data events and ‘practical’ workshops I could attend if I was new to the industry and wanted to get my head round the concept of how we should look at data to source and engage with new prospects whilst also cherishing and inspiring our existing loyal customers.
All great stuff and worthy effort from an industry keen to share ideas, but seriously, isn’t all this hype simply making ‘big data’ too big? Aren’t we just making a little bit too much noise and over-complicating its use instead of concentrating on clearly demonstrating the immense value of its insight?
Data exists in every organisation and advertisers have always had customer data at their fingertips. The reason why it has rapidly risen to become the latest, hottest trend is all thanks to the growth of internet use. User interaction data has equally become much richer as current technological advancement has allowed us to discover new ways to follow customer browsing interactions.
Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, recently described the internet as “a magic window”! His analogy is particularly relevant when you think of the extent of insight that we now have into our customers and their online engagement. Advertisers can discover who buys their products, for how much, where and when. This first party data is invaluable, and technological development has now given us an even greater understanding of how to talk to our customers. Overlaying this already precious audience data with third party data, from demographics and weather trends to retail footfall and multi-channel engagement, has meant data management is now gold dust for marketing to truly achieve ROI and build brand awareness.
But, as an industry we’re also becoming dangerously fixated on how much data we’re able to acquire. I read recently that two and a half exabytes of data are created everyday, and there’s plenty of other mind blowing statistics regarding the number of channels, conversations and journeys we’re able to track. But, ‘big data’ isn’t just about accumulating more data; it’s about discovering intelligent data insights and connecting data in order to stimulate customers and improve their experience.
There’s no denying that data provides greater insight, awareness and in turn reduces media wastage. It also gives advertisers the ability to look beyond the captive audience, understanding the true customer journey and powering their brand delivery. Latest partnerships, including WPP’s link-up with Twitter, have also once again broadened our data collection capabilities by specifically giving us a real measure of the worth of community loyalty, and opening the door to whole new conversation channels encouraging even greater brand engagement.
Obviously, there’s some who do feel that insight or data driven advertising is now simply a given and not a privilege anymore. But some of the ‘big data’ noise has also revolved around the concept that data could simply be breeding an attitude of false certainty, with its analytics and crunched results becoming the dominating driver and squashing the very creativity which allows our brands to grow.
The challenge is therefore for businesses to harness every facet of the data they have, and specifically to look at how the data held within their siloed marketing, IT and sales departments can be connected so that insight can be collectively and strategically applied.
For some, this isn’t the easiest of propositions, especially if there’s a lack of resource or the need for training to build understanding and data ability. But this doesn’t have to be a solo in-house effort. Our industry has nurtured a raft of tech companies who have developed proprietary technology which can digest, filter and simplify big data into easy to use insight.
As part of a strategic marketing approach, Data Management Platforms specifically enable advertisers to store their data efficiently, analyse their audience’s brand engagements and understand where improvement can be made. Armed with this wisdom, they can then leverage the insight to make smarter advertising decisions and to intelligently build brand awareness campaigns with immediacy that real time aggregation of data provides. Overlay this with precise planning, management and measurement for targeted campaigns, and you’re then effectively armed to the marketing hilt.
But most importantly, a DMP will enable advertisers to simplify their data dealings. Big data might be the future for advertising, but realistically, advertisers need to start with the basics and evolve their delivery once they’ve had time to filter what information they need, what’s useful, what works and what’s actually important to build their businesses. Now’s not the time to get lost in ‘big data’.
By Nicky McShane
European Managing Director
WPP Digital’s Media Innovation Group