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Marianne McKenzie Yallop: if data is the new oil, why are marketers so willing to give theirs up?

Clive Humby’s declaration back in 2006 that ‘Data is the new oil’ is, at this point, almost the mantra of the modern marketer. And while many marketers may fantasise about the days of making decisions on intuition alone, the truth is that without media data, campaigns would rely on little more than guesswork or gut instinct.

For global brands, the need for the truths that media data reveals has never been more vital. Whether marketers are simply looking at the bottom line, or more granular KPIs such as value perception – which pizza chain Dominos successfully increased after its latest campaign – marketers need the figures at their fingertips to justify the spend.

Despite the positive outlook for marketing budgets in the long-term, the ever-changing macroeconomic situation means advertisers will have to work hard to continue to justify their spend. For brands with a presence and teams spread globally, there can be no unified response to these challenges – each local team needs to be able to effectively respond to the unique situations within their market rapidly if they are to continue to be effective.

The truth of the matter for most global brands however, is that media data is often out of reach of the marketing teams that need it most. Spread across agency partners, siloed and hard to access, this fractured media data view can lead to the insights it delivers arriving long after a campaign has run – or possibly not arriving at all. If global brands are going to truly maximise the potential of their media data and therefore their ad spend, they will need to first gain ownership of their media data.

Dicing with data

Interestingly there is a second part to Clive Humby’s famous declaration that often gets ignored: “It (data) is valuable, but if unrefined it cannot really be used. It has to be changed into gas, plastic, chemicals, etc to create a valuable entity that drives profitable activity; so must data be broken down, analysed, for it to have value.”

Data drives every decision a global brand makes, and this is especially true for marketing. Take McDonalds for example. They dug into their sales data and discovered that a large proportion of their milkshakes were being bought early in the morning by truck-drivers who saw them as an easy and filling replacement for breakfast. The chain took that data back to their product team who created a breakfast item that could be consumed quickly and easily while on the road.

But as valuable as this data is, if marketers cannot gain an overview of all media data in a timely fashion, the insights within this wealth of information will get lost. One way to reunite media data is by taking ownership of it.

Regaining control of media data gives brands a number of advantages. The first is more timely access to their data. With all media data stored in one place, global and local teams gain access to real-time updates from campaigns, instead of months after in a “post-mortem.”

This more timely access to reporting allows for greater financial agility. With better oversight and analysis on committed and actual spend, marketers can combine with historical benchmarks to create a feed for ROI studies and alignment across other data sets.

With every penny of spend counting in the current economy, being able to track allocated budget and make timely course corrections to campaigns is vital. With the ability to analyse in-house post-campaign media spend and performance data, for example, global brands – alongside their agencies – can make the corrections needed to reduce wasted spend and better reach their audiences. Furthermore, this easier access to an overview of all media data enables teams to better spot ‘outlier’ strategies, as well as cross-market investment opportunities.

Ultimately gaining ownership of media data gives brands better access to their data and smoother workflows, allowing for the crude data to be turned into the true insights needed to execute better investment control over multiple markets.

Drilling your own well

There is no overnight fix to gaining ownership of media data. Throughout the process however, brands need to keep focussed on the long-term aims of this process – long term increase in operational efficiencies and ROI. Procter and Gamble found that by more effectively analysing their media data, and developing smarter media planning and buying systems, they were able to achieve bigger reach for less budget.

Brands should be cautious before diving into the process; establishing a strategic design and clear framework customised to the specific needs of a brand is vital to taking ownership of media data successfully. Once this has been established the next step is a thorough data audit. Establish what data is held, where and for what purpose. This ensures that the data being taken back into ownership is as accurate and reliable as possible.

There is then the question of media data management – will you construct an in-house system, or purchase third-party software? While building in-house gives a level of granular control and true data ownership, this is a lengthy project that can use valuable time and resources, and needs ongoing security management. When looking towards third-party media data management solutions, brands should seek those that prioritise preserving the data of local teams, and offer flexible, fully customisable workflows.

Without fingertip access to media data, marketers are driving a car with their eyes shut – they may take the right turning every now and then, but they are hurtling towards disaster with every passing second. Regaining sight means gaining control over media data, and creating a single source of truth that marketers can rely on to navigate the twists and turns presented by today’s rapidly shifting market. Doing so means brands can focus on long-term goals, while gaining short-term agility, ultimately maximising the impact of every penny of their ad budget.

Marianne McKenzie Yallop is global head of client services, Redmill Solutions.

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