This is the year when everyone is going to double down on data, and most of them are going to have less of an idea than ever what to do with it.
Here's an example: I was at a meeting last week where I learned a regional brand was going to double down on its data acquisition capabilities. I asked what the data strategy was.
The reply: "Get as much as we can."
Me: "Okay. Um. Do you have any idea what you're going to do with it?"
The reply: "Well. We figure when we see what we have, then … "
I'm not even going to finish that sentence because it's the cliché of the new data era, where we lead by data acquisition, and then try to back that into a media strategy.
I'll just say this once: Data is not a strategy.
Algorithms that rely on Big Data to tell us what we like, or who to date, serve to show us our own patterns. They're like a mirror. We can see ourselves very clearly, but the more we look, the more we just see the same thing. Data can't do anything but reflect our patterns back to us.
BuzzFeed is an example of the reflection effect. Algorithms that rely on Big Data to tell BuzzFeed we like pictures of food porn and, say, articles about life hacking will reflect that image back to us in something like The 8 Brownies Who Will Make You Feel Like a Genius.
FuzzBeed is a parody site that uses algorithms to create a ton of these silly reflections. It's genius because it mocks our limited interests online (listicles! celebrities! quizzes!), and it mocks our unspoken belief that algorithms "are smart."
The smartest things in media are the people in media. Not the data. No matter how much we collect, people know how to make data into strategy.