I’ve used some version of the “It’s The Data, Stupid” line at least a half dozen times in the past year to make the point in columns or public speaking that audience data has become the real economy driving Madison Avenue’s audience-buying systems, and someday, most of its media-buying. But I’ve never used it as appropriately as I am in today’s RTBlog, because that line originated, you know, with some political media operatives. And while Targeted Victory’s Michael Beach may seem as far removed as anyone could be from the Clinton campaign’s James Carville, they do have a lot of things in common, especially how they use data to target and influence voters.
The reason for today’s “Golden Age” modifier, is because today’s story about how Targeted Victory is using data targeting Wall Street traders solidifies how creative and innovative audience targeters have gotten. And while political media operatives like Beach have long left no stone unturned in pursuit of better data science, I think conventional agencies and brands are moving in that direction, too -- especially in their use of first-party data, and in the ways they integrate it with other audience attributes to fine-tune and focus in on the best possible audience mix they can.
It is such a radical shift in mindsets from the classic ways Madison Avenue operatives have thought about targeting audiences -- via carefully constructed sample-based research like Nielsen’s, MRI, Scarborough and the like -- but if you ask me, it’s the absolute logical progression the industry has to move in, because there just is too much good audience attribute data out there to be ignored.
It will take a while for old-line strategists and classic media researchers to embrace it, if ever, but the change will come from sources willing to embrace a much more pragmatic approach: you know -- results. And there are likely few categories as immediately results-driven as political campaigns. Movie openings maybe. Retail sales events. Automotive pushes. And, of course, almost any performance-based product or category that cares more about conversions than it does about the statistical validity of projected audiences reached.
Apologies if I sound like a heretic, and don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should abandon conventional sample-based research. It’s still great for planning, for thinking and strategizing, and even for making some types of media buys, and for posting them. I’m just saying more of the media economy will be based on actual consumer data in the future -- because, well, brands are targeting actual consumers, not samples, in-tab or otherwise.
Right about now, I know some of my research intelligence friends are frothing, and I fully expect some of them to post comments below. I welcome the discussion. It’s good for the industry. But just because we’ve done things one way for a century or so doesn’t mean we’ll continue to do it the same way for the next century or so.
I saw just that sort of reaction the other day when we published a story about
AT&T AdWorks releasing new data via its Bueprint TV audience targeting system that will enable advertisers and agencies to buy TV shows based on their composition of mobile users, including their
devices, operating systems and data usage plans. Some of the reactions were, well, reactionary -- usual suspects grousing about the research validity of using data that way. The point here isn’t
that one approach necessarily replaces the other. It’s that brands and their agents need to use every source of data in their power to figure out how to break through to their most valuable
audiences in the most effective way. Call it research. Call it data. Call it whatever you want. When it’s done right, I call it something that works.
"Audience targeting" image from Shutterstock.