As we are putting the finishing touches on our Feb. 23 OMMA Data Driven Marketing event in New York, I have been doing my own deep data drill of the topic’s evolution in recent years. While “big data” has been the hot ticket all year, the reality of a more intensely data-driven media and marketing ecosystem has been looming for decades. And data as a central element in the media and marketing equation is nothing new to begin with.
But the new era of data has some singular features. Massive numbers of inputs, online and off-, are coming together. Mountains of unstructured data have only recently rendered great value under sophisticated natural language processing and algorithms. Real-time delivery and feedback make ongoing iteration of all content and media viable. Individuals' profiles are becoming detailed enough -- and the touch points are starting to reach effectively enough across platforms -- that all these developments can join to create truly personalized messaging to consumers. These and other forces have come together in recent years to form a big data surge in imagination and investment that we will be exploring next month.
I recently took a step back to recall one of the first people who tipped me off to the coming wave of data-centric thinking. A number of years ago, Aegis’s then Executive Director David Verklin coined the phrase “data is the new creative” to suggest how analytics teams and creative ultimately would be working together to touch audiences and guide messaging. I caught up with Verklin this month to see how he felt about that oft-quoted construction and how it panned out.
“When I first made that statement the defining moment for me was a in 2007 when Carat pitched Walmart and partnered with Dratfcb," says Verklin. "It was one of the first times creative and direct marketing came together.”
Carat eventually won… and then lost…Walmart, Verklin recalls, but for a while they sold the world’s largest retailer on the idea of the all-knowing all-seeing data dashboard -- "a vision of a unified data field where a mature marketing apparatus of an organization is aligned with activity in media and outputs from sales to social media tracking.”
Something similar is emerging now in the rush to big data. Feedback loops are affecting all aspects of media creation as well as ever more aspects of selling and buying. The effect has been most dramatically felt in online media. And the arguments are only beginning to gear up about how much data and its handmaiden, automation, should be replacing the media buyer, seller and even a maker’s “gut” for what works. But Verklin is still championing the cause of data’s benefits to an even larger media ecosystem that arguably is the last bastion of the “gut” – TV.
As the former head of Canoe Ventures, Verklin is pitching TV and video as places where data can next do its work. “As you think about the next evolution of data as the new media you have to think about video,” he argues. “That is where it is all happening.” The Web was just a warm-up for the big ticket: TV, and especially video on demand, where Canoe helps network TV insert ads, he says. "There are issues of transparency and commoditization, but the Internet seems to have integrated data into media. If data is our future that may not be terrible.” Verklin expects video to fall in line and become a data-driven ecosystem that is sold across platforms.
Exactly which kind of data from what source will drive video “is more murky,” he admits. It seems unlikely anyone will unseat Nielsen anytime soon in measuring national TV. “Network TV is not going to change in the next 36 months,” he admits. “You could feather in some data from set-top boxes," but much of the data will be coming “from the bottom up,” he contends.
VOD delivers good metrics now, and formats will extend to mobile and tablet devices as well, according to Verklin. But he expects that these on-demand formats will be less prone to fast-forward syndrome because they will carry lighter ad loads and tighter targeting.
Verklin also believes that data may not craft creative, but it certainly can affect it. “Data is becoming part of the media future in a nice way,” he says. “Every media delivery platform will have some kind of data feedback for the content creator.” The unexpected spikes and valleys of data will spark creative minds to look for new solutions. “If you look for the aberrations, then instead of being told what to write, the data can show you what the readers are responding to," he says. "Then it is a creative asset, and people will learn to be comfortable with it.”