Data comes with an 'expiration date'

Agency and brand experts discussed how best to use analytics at the 4A's Data Summit

NEW YORK — Data acquisition and analytics are needed for marketers and agencies to target audiences and identify purchasing trends, but there is an "expiration date" for it, said experts at the 4A’s Data Summit this week.

As consumers’ interests and shopping habits change over time, so should the data, stressed Shenan Reed, MEC president, digital, North America, during a panel discussion titled "Empowering Marketing through Data." According to Reed, "The older the data gets, the less consumer value it has."

Using outdated data wasn’t the only concern expressed by the panelists. Large companies that may rely on one analytics group, either in-house or third party, risk the chance of not working with new and specialized business analytics software and services that may offer brands information their personal data providers may not have, such as social media or influencers’ insights, they warned. 

Radha Subramanyam, iHeartMedia president of insights, research and data analytics, said data-retrieving services are the most cost-effective way for marketers to access current information. Hiring full-time analysts is expensive, she said, and buying analytics software requires continual upgrades as data-gathering technology advances.

"You can rent data, and you can borrow it, but you don’t have to buy it," Subramanyam said. "You should find your strategic partnership on an idea-to-idea basis. Keep your mind open to changing companies, and keep the data flow changing."

Views differed on the amount of data on which agencies should rely. During a "fireside chat," Michael Roth, chairman and CEO of Interpublic Group, said he believed that the more data available the better. In contrast, Starcom USA President Amanda Richman told attendees of a panel discussion titled "Data at the Heart" that the industry relies too heavily on data. Instead, she said, brands should focus more on figuring out which analytics were relevant to their consumers’ interests.

Tina Allan, executive vice president and director of data solutions at BBDO New York, agreed. Brands should work more on gathering "smart data," focusing on the quality of information received, and less on gathering the most data available, he said, during the "Empowering Marketing" panel.

Agencies and marketers are increasingly relying on the up-to-the-minute consumer data available from analytics firms or companies like Google and Facebook to create more real-time promotions for their campaigns, Allan added.

For example, BBDO teamed up with Twitch, an online video and community platform for gamers, to create live-streamed videos for its "You're Not You When You're Hungry" campaign in September. In the clips, famous and hungry gamers "switched" into total strangers when they were hungry and returned to normal once they ate a Snickers bar. The Twitch videos were shared 130,000 times through YouTube and Reddit’s forums the day they were released.

"Data tells us, the who, the why, the where, and how consumers are going to be, and what they play on," Allan said. "We’re not only watching campaigns on the web and market, we’re optimizing on real-time events."

The best way to use data, for planned campaigns and real-time strategies, is through the media mixed model, where agencies, marketers and analysts work together on campaigns in a "war room," said David Edelman, partner and co-leader of the global digital marketing practice at consulting firm McKinsey, during a talk titled "How Marketers are Using Data to Manage Customers."

"The whole operating model moves from going to a regular campaign, to taking it further and making it a formal war room where a bunch of different functions work together and develop ideas," Edelman said. "The best way to test new ideas is to drive more data sources."

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