The Big Real Time Data Confusion

Yes, I have been in media for a few years, and I talk about data and real time and big and small and acronyms and all that confusion all the time. Given it is August and we had one of the hottest summers for a while, I figured it was about time to let off some steam.

Big Data. What is that all about? Maybe not 100% verifiable, but it seems that a lot of airlines have been avoiding the Ukrainian air space and war zone airspace in general for a while. Data around us, collected via a few channels, suggested that it is better to fly a detour, maybe spend a bit more money on fuel but get the plane to the destination safely. Other airlines ignored that, despite the data. 

Maybe that isn’t the best example, but we have more data available these days than ever before. We collect more, we connect more and we analyse more. It is digital, computers for that matter, that can help us figure out what's happening and visualise trends. Strava recently mapped all their collected bicycle routes worldwide. So why would anyone with responsibility ignore available data?

The decision is still with the human, no matter which algorithm you put to work. And the same is true for real time. I remember when the first DSP was in the market, a simplified Right Media dashboard. Most of the readers wouldn’t remember it. But essentially, how to operate and put the data in the machine, the DSP, is down to the user, the optimiser. And, it comes down to (the data analyst) how to interpret the data which comes out of the machine. Even the most sophisticated attribution models are still done in a very manual way: with pencil and paper. So whilst the crunching is done electronically, the interpretation still relies heavily on “common sense”.

Does that cause confusion? Maybe not yet. Let’s have a look at ATDs, ad trading desks. iTDs, independent ad trading desks or real time service providers. Or the humans behind the DSPs. All of those, pending their data and technology, deliver different results for the clients. CPA, CPC, CPM, CPx, CR, UU etc. Acronyms in a war to win against the clients’ in-house solutions, the iHATD. More and more clients bring their own tech in house and I would assume that sooner or later, given another two years, agencies and brands alike are using tools which we might call a OCDSP (omni channel DSP) which includes search, display, mobile, tablet and TV. 

Bang. One technology fits all, executed by optimisers, fed by data, resulting in more data and more clever decision making. The agency becomes a consultancy and the media margins disappear. Is that the new agency model?

No. Digital Media is not that fast and simple. There aren't enough optimisers around, good ones anyway, and our industry is too young to breed enough for the current stage, let alone for in two years time. So brands will outsource to the specialist service providers and tech operators, the now ATDs again, which might or might not be agency owned. But fundamentally, the ecosystem will not change, and besides more sophisticated tech, hasn’t changed much either.

Whilst all that happened, the next digital revolution happens on the street, addressable outdoor media, bought programmatically, in real time, triggered by your smartphone beacon. Your mobile will know which room you are in, which music you listen to and TV channel you watch. This information will give us more data, and makes the consumer even more transparent. 

That will result in sales people going door to door again to build relationships beyond Facebook and native, to speak to real humans and we are slowly coming back to where we were: 10 years ago in today’s now. We are living the future.

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