Behind every data point is a person

Over the last few months, the media industry has been caught up in a whirlwind of pitching. Throughout the many conversations, meetings and written responses, there has been a consistent topic on everyone’s mind: Data. But, why?

When we talk about data, we are almost always referring to the bits of code created from digital connections. And with nearly 3.5 billion smartphones forecasted to ship in 2020 (BI Intelligence Estimates), the amount of available data will only continue to explode. Most media professionals understand the role data plays in better identifying an audience, deriving insights, planning communications, optimizing performance, and evaluating success for future campaigns. However, that base understanding is just the start. There are also issues with data that are often not discussed; issues like data expiration, cleansing, format, privacy, ownership and warehousing. Therefore, a simple question like, “What are your agency’s data capabilities?” can lead down a rabbit hole, where one quickly loses track of the reason for the question in the first place. After all, behind every data point is a person. By understanding people and their relationship with brands better, we have an increased probability of improving business performance over time. Not all data is created equal. Lately, we’ve seen the pendulum swing away from data derived from survey-based methodologies. Why should we ask someone about their behaviors when we can now observe them online? No doubt, that is more predictive than a sample of several thousand respondents. Armed with this point-of-view, the logical conclusion would be to amass as much behavioral data as possible. Data from ad networks, social media, digital content owners, third-party data providers, and so on. The fundamental issue with this approach is that while this may allow us to know what people do, all the behavioral data in the world will not allow us to understand why they do. I believe the debate should be how to balance behavioral and attitudinal data; importantly, by linking the two. In doing so, we can achieve a single view of people, which unlocks the type of rich insights critical to affecting the marketing outcomes needed for transformational business success. Accolades should be given to those marketers who see the value in using traditional means of collecting data alongside newer means enabled through the digital economy. The combination of both will ultimately help us create better brand stories and interconnected and interdependent experiences. This is what is required to win in today’s digital economy.

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