Commentary

Is This The Dawn of the Data Decade?

The average amount of data created by a human being on our planet has more than quadrupled in the last six years. Our lives have become increasingly impacted by data-driven decision-making, as algorithms and recommendation engines make their way into the household lexicon.

In the marketing industry, data has become our frenemy -- we sink or swim in a new era of real-time and predictive analytics. 2010 was the year of acronyms, with RTB, DSPs, DMPs and SSPs dominating the headlines. 2011 will no doubt spawn new three letter acronyms and new businesses dependent on data as the connective tissue driving competitive advantage.

The hottest topic last year was real-time bidding (RTB) and the rise of the demand side platform (DSP). The ability to target and acquire audiences in real-time, as opposed to buying media based on contextual relevancy or panel based research has proved its cost efficiency to advertisers and agencies.

This all began with display advertising that has the benefit of a relatively simple taxonomy for graphical display ad units and a huge supply of unsold biddable inventory. Online video and mobile were not far behind display as new real-time targetable media channels.

In 2011, we're seeing publishers responding to the audience-buying trend by finding new ways to generate value from their inventory. Supply-side platforms (SSPs) offer publishers the ability to manage their inventory more effectively to maximize inventory yield.

Private exchanges or links have also emerged as new trading mechanisms between publishers and agency trading desks looking for exclusivity and transparency.

For real-time media buying to become truly successful and scalable, the supply of biddable inventory needs to continue to grow and better industry standards need to be established for exchanges and bid technologies (DSPs).

That's a process that requires dialogue and transparency with publisher partners and industry bodies. Data-driven, real-time acquisition of online media is a major area of opportunity for our advertisers to drive improved efficiency in the display marketplace. Growth we have seen in this area in the last two years will continue, and as we see more success in mobile and video, this will become a truly multichannel opportunity.

The unstoppable production and consumption of digital data has also created a challenge in the industry to draw out true insights from the "noise." The mountains of information we now manage as marketers have expedited the critical need to organize and optimize data from multiple sources.

Media agencies and marketers need to tackle the challenge of "big" data head-on and take pro-active steps to change thinking within their organizations: put data driven thinking at the core. Technology is key in this mind-shift and the Data Management Platform (DMP) may be the next critical advertising technology development agencies and marketers need to put on their investment-shopping list.

As offline CRM databases, shopper purchase data and online campaign data need to be integrated and analyzed, a single data currency needs to be established. It is crucial that we as an industry start trials and build such technologies. Within months, addressable TV in the US will become a more viable household level targeting opportunity, changing the stakes for multi-channel targeting. Now is the time to get ahead of solving complex data problems as an investment for the future.

What of the remainder of 2011? Well, the digital advertising industry is in the midst of a land grab for access to and control of audiences. The days of picking up the phone to negotiate a media buy already seem like a distant memory to some as automated technologies facilitate access to audiences at scale in minutes.

The challenge for marketers in 2011 is to bring together display, video, mobile search and potentially even addressable TV in a single data driven decision-making platform. The growing connectivity of data allows us to understand the contribution of individual media in far greater detail and in almost real time. This means our decisions can be more accurate and more instantaneous.

We can now look at the impact of a particular TV ad, its relation to an online display ad, the search term a consumer used and what they subsequently bought at a retail store to evaluate campaign success. This interconnectivity of data allows greater visibility and faster decision making with data available and acted upon in hours or days, not weeks or months. Those agencies and advertisers that reinvent themselves as data-driven organizations can deliver on this promise.

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