Edelman launches intelligence unit to bring data to the fore of comms

The new unit, DxI, will be led by former Wunderman Thompson chief data officer Yannis Kotziagkiaouridis.

Edelman has launched an intelligence unit that will put data across paid, owned and earned channels at the front of its communications process for clients.

The group, called Edelman Data & Intelligence (DxI), will bring together 350 engineers, data scientists, researchers and performance marketing specialists at the agency, who will shift data to the front of the comms planning process, rather than just applying it for backend measurement.

Edelman claims that, unlike the advertising world, which relies on undifferentiated transactional data from third parties to target audiences, DxI will generate its own data by developing content people want to engage with.

It plans to tie that engagement data back to years of historical PR market research conducted by the firm, allowing brands to get beyond what someone is likely to buy to understand why.

“That [engagement] is unique enough to create a new set of data that allows us to better understand people,” Kotziagkiaouridis said.

He explained that any advertiser can buy a third-party dataset on households expecting a baby, for example. But the ability to tie that insight to market research that shows new parents prefer more egalitarian households opens the door for brands to tell a different story and get involved in new parents’ lives in a more meaningful way.

“Imagine you as a brand now start creating a program for equity on paternity and maternity leave,” Kotziagkiaouridis said. “Advocating on legislation is different than giving a coupon to buy baby shampoo for $2 cheaper.”

DxI will develop products that combine datasets and use machine learning to develop more holistic and nuanced comms plans that move the needle on brand trust.

One such tool will connect first-party data generated from content to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, a long-running survey that measures brand trust. Others will allow brands to understand who consumed misinformation, and whether that piece of content was pushed by a group with a political agenda to be more targeted about their responses.

“The last year, we’ve invested a tremendous amount in integrating data we have never had before,” Kotziagkiaouridis said. “We’re taking all these tools from the digital advertising world and directly applying it to how we deal with misinformation and crisis management.”

Data collected from consumer engagement can also lead to more meaningful creative outcomes. For example, DxI was able to leverage two years of research laying out Ikea’s commitment to sustainability to launch an upcoming Black Friday campaign where the brand will buy back Ikea furniture 27 markets, said Edelman global chief creative officer Judy John.

Kotziagkiaouridis believes the PR world is in a unique position to use data because it's grounded in market research and earned media, which creates unique data provided directly by consenting consumers. That’s part of the reason he left the advertising world a year ago for the opportunity to run DxI, he said.

The launch of DxI represents a next step in the evolution of Edelman beyond traditional PR to creative and digital media buying and now data-driven comms planning, said CEO Richard Edelman.

“We have the ability to create movements and campaigns that last 15 years as opposed to three months, to make brands part of the conversation in a way that's meaningful,” he added.

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