Reflecting On OMMA DDM: Data Big And Messy

It doesn’t take much to drum up enthusiasm over the prospects for data-driven marketing in today’s environment. The hype surrounding big data is relentles, and the sheer volume of information about consumers being spewed out from all channels is just staggering. At last week's OMMA DDM event in New York, Nada Stirrat, EVP/CRO, Acxiom commented that her company had 1600 data points on 17 million consumers around the world. We often talk about big data in terms of the breadth of information available, but just as impressive is the amazing depth of knowledge that companies can have about a range of individuals.

Whether the market really is ready to make intelligent use of all this information is an open question, it seemed to me after experiencing the OMMA DDM show. There were a number of panelists during the day who openly mocked the current trend of marketers looking for big data fixes as if it were a spigot that simply could be turned on. The implication was that many people in the enterprise are looking at data as a solution rather than as a tool that requires expertise, interpretation and judgment. There is a lot of data being collected, panelists often said, simply because marketers are afraid they will be missing something by not collecting it, not because they have a particular goal in mind for collecting it in the first place.



Often we are so enamored of online and automated methods of amassing torrents of data that we miss the methods that render the most relevant data. For instance, David Boyle, the Consumer Insights chief at HarperCollins, caught my interest in discussing how his company was using thousands of online interviews to best assess customers’ tastes and reading habits. When I asked him about using such retro methods as interviews in an age of social media scraping he explained that the tried-and-true interview process allowed for pursuing very specific data goals upfront that would actually render a larger sample basis than would monitoring Twitter feeds.  Sometimes the older methods actually get you to where you want to go faster and with better results.

There was a lot of discussion last week about how one goes about valuing data in a marketplace where each company managing the data is defining it differently. Backing into an absolute value for data is difficult. Marcus Tewksbury, global VP of product strategy at Experian Marketing Services, was straightforward in advising that brands need to come to the bargaining table with a clear understanding of what value they put on the data they're after. It is based on “perceived value” he says.

One of the best examples of a company coming closest to fully integrating data within almost all of its operations was 1800Flowers’ President Chris McCann’ s keynote. Chris outlined how the company embraces data without becoming a slave to it. See the full video here, and check back at the agenda page for OMMA DDM in coming days to see links to videos for the rest of the show as well as presentation slides.

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