Data in Advertising

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Photo by Esha Samajpati. All rights reserved ©

Data is here to stay. Unlike Summer, which is gone. At least for this year, in my part of the world.

Hello, Fall.

We are done with barbecues and pools. We are now talking back-to-school supplies and pumpkin flavored everything. Like it or not, lacing everything with the flavor of fall is a marketing ploy that’s not going anywhere soon.

For me this was the summer of Web Analytics, and in turn, trying to understand the role of data in advertising. It is pretty much what everyone talks about these days, even during a celebration of artistic work, like during this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Turns out AI held court during many a presentation.

AI observes and learns from past behaviors and is essentially derivative. It is helpful in tracking advertising efforts. It crunches past numbers and informs us. Lets us know what is working and what is not. Creativity on the other hand is fueled by the power of storytelling. It needs emotional connection and humor. I think what data can do is propel it in the right direction.

But can it take over the creative side of advertising and start producing engaging marketing content? Well, although AI could become essential to the process as a whole (if it hasn’t already), it falls short when it comes to taking risks or taking the proverbial road less traveled. We need people for those and the crazier the idea, the better it is.

Speaking of crazy good ideas, O&M’s pug campaign for Hutch Cellular Service in India, comes to mind. Way back in 2003, they showed a boy with a dog that followed him everywhere. The tagline was “wherever you go, our network will follow.” No phones were shown. Hell, nobody even spoke a word. Not even a woof. Just a feel-good background score. According to Businessworld, “Hutch saw its subscriber base shooting up by over 70 per cent right after the campaign broke.” And I am not even getting into the awards and accolades. They were too many to count.

Setting aside creative pursuits, let’s consider Web Analytics, as it has become a vital part of advertising. Even here, we need the human touch to interpret the data and write out the actionable insights in plain english. As Avinash Kaushik says,

“Your dashboard should have some data, but what it really needs are three sections: Insights, Actions, Business Impact. IABI.

Your dashboards don’t need more wiz-bang graphics or for them to be displays of your javascript powers to sql your hadoop to make big query cloud compute. They need more English language. They need your brain in a box. Ok, three boxes.”

We have a wide selection of tools that helps us mine, analyze and visualize huge amounts of data but that doesn’t mean we “puke” data all over. By the way, “customized data puke” or CDP is a term often used on Avinash Kaushik’s blog Occam’s Razor. If you want to learn about web analytics and would rather have a laugh now and then, instead of mindlessly going through jargon-heavy content, his posts are the way to go.

As with other areas of our lives, advertising and marketing is changing rapidly. It’s not just that it is becoming more and more data-driven, the way we consume media is also changing. The rules of gathering data is changing. New bills are being proposed and laws are being laid down as I type.

Meanwhile, plain old imagination, something we try to imbibe in kids since preschool is thriving. Same with basic language skills. What does the data really tell us? We need to write it out in simple english. No frills required. And for both jobs, we need real people. Like you and me.

Sometime in the not too distant future, when the machines have risen, a couple of robots could be reading this and chuckling to themselves, “What a dum-dum! She had no idea, did she?”

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