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The Exchange Lab

Data: the marketer's best and most powerful friend

Data: the marketer's best and most powerful friend

Marketers are entering 2018 with one over-arching concern: how best to harness data. Data is a powerful, essential tool - but with great power comes great responsibility.

Data is informing how brands are working programmatically and their future programmatic strategy.

This finding emerges from a recent piece of research. Campaign, in partnership with ISBA and The Exchange Lab, conducted a study to scrutinise brands’ use of programmatic. Why do some use programmatic agencies, while others prefer to bring programmatic in-house? With brand safety coming out as a major industry concern, how can brands start to feel more secure about the use of their brand and data? Under-pinning it all, what does it mean for ROI?

Data worries are real
Throughout the results, there’s a thread of concern over data breaches, confidentiality issues and brand safety. Many areas reveal the concern, whether it’s talent acquisition, strategy or use of agency against in-house resource.

Fewer than a third (30%) of respondents (company size 250+) say they have a dedicated programmatic team or role in-house. There was a heavy weighting towards respondents feeling ‘neutral’ or ‘not prepared’ to place advertising programmatically in-house, in both smaller and larger companies.

42% of people cite a lack of talent and specialist programmatic knowledge as a reason not to bring programmatic in-house. The secondary reason being ‘it would not be cost effective’ (36%).

The majority of those who use agencies for their programmatic work feel the agency was prepared to ‘keep up with the latest developments, and have access to relevant training as required’ – an indication that there is real concern over new regulation and that clients don't have the in-house resource needed to be across a changing landscape.

Also, nearly 60% of respondents cite a data-based reason for using agencies well ahead of cost or infrastructure concerns.

When asked what skills companies desired their programmatic teams to have, ‘measurement’ and ‘data analytics’ shone through as the most important factors rated at 4.46 and 4.45 respectively (out of 5, with 5 being most important). Reporting and analytics (4.31) and targeting strategies (4.29) followed. Creative execution comes out as less of a priority.

It’s clear that specialist knowledge and expertise is the most important reason for employing agencies: ‘They are programmatic specialists.’

It’s still about the money
When it comes to programmatic strategy and spend, ROI still matters most with 65% rating ROI as ‘very important’ across the sample. The results suggest companies see their ROI coming from effective measurement, and skilful use of data and analysis. Getting the right people with the right data and analytical skills is a priority for both small and large companies.

People are concerned about best practice – but it comes behind ROI, as does creative execution which appears to be more of a 'nice to have’.

That said, with GDPR becoming stricter and companies more liable next year, it’s no surprise that data concerns are a top priority, alongside ROI. 85% say ‘use of data’ in running a successful campaign is ‘very important’ or ‘important’.

Set this alongside the responses to ‘what’s your greatest concern?’ and a clear pattern emerges: "Hackers"; "GDPR"; "general security"; "confidentiality"; "data breaches"; "privacy".

Everyone wants a strong return on investment and it’s clear that the industry feels the best way to achieve this is to handle data expertly and securely. It is no surprise that it’s top of marketers’ minds.

"As a programmatic specialist our business centres on data – how its handled, combined, safeguarded and, most importantly, actioned to business benefit. It's, therefore not surprising to see the respondents express concerns on how their data is used – they are right to do so. What also shines through is a reminder to split functions effectively – specialists and agencies can take the care of the heavy lifting in media while the client moves their own business forward. With concerns over data and transparency addressed (this is key) clients should think long and hard before they decide to change that balance." Chris Dobson, chief executive, The Exchange Lab

"It’s no surprise that use of data is so front of mind for marketers, with GDPR in force next year and with increased concerns about privacy. Advertisers are right to balance the need for commercial returns against prospective risk to reputation." Phil Smith, Director General, ISBA

Eleanor Kahn

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