Agencies: Data means nothing until we stop competing and start consolidating

Kirsten LeAgencies often talks about this importance of data but Yahoo7 digital star Kristen Lê argues competitive pressures often prevent them from maximising its effectiveness. 

When it comes to digital media, agencies are quick to point the finger at clients for a lack of uptake on innovative, data-led ideas.

The reality, however, is that we as an industry are lacking the focus and grit it takes to sell these ideas in to someone else.

The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, we’re too focused on beating our competitors to activate whatever is the latest and greatest media product in market.

This often clouds our judgement and sets us on a path where we are left grasping for insights that are convenient – not necessarily meaningful.

With the market more complex and competitive than ever, the work agencies do requires more validation than ever.

While marketers know this, they can’t always give us the time we need to gather data that matters. And so we are faced with the problem of having to produce successful data results, and produce them quickly.

This drives us to consider it a ‘win’ if our online campaign delivers a click-through rate above 0.06% (incredibly – the 2014 Australian Sizmek CTR benchmark for a standard banner).

Is this meaningful? Is point-six of a percent really what success looks like? At what cost do we chase these ephemeral data ‘victories’?

Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly talent out there who know and love their product, and know how to use data effectively. But broadly as an industry, our failure is in our inability to recognise most clients need much more support to get up to speed with the ever-changing nature of digital media.

Until we take the time to educate clients on what metrics are actually meaningful, they will never move past the stage of saying “we need to get digital onto the schedule”, and into the space of “let’s choose a digital solution that we can measure accurately and will yield data that loops directly back into ROI”.

This takes time, but it’s our responsibility to push back on clients and not just buy for the sake of buying.

The second challenge is agencies aren’t making more of a push to implement better tools and processes that help us manage this abundance of data.

At the Mumbrella360 conference earlier this month, Matt Hertig of Alight Analytics pointed out that one of the core problems in marketing analytics today is we’re still using outdated tools and methodologies to analyse our data.

We have multiple manual measurement silos rather than a holistic aggregated hub where we can automate our learnings in real time (oh, what a Utopia that would be!).

We house data in separate platforms, then manually pull Excel exports before converting them into terrible graphs that end up (in an un-editable format) in Microsoft Powerpoint – a place Hertig says “data goes to die”.

I can’t say I disagree with him. This is not only extremely laborious, but in doing so we are limiting our ability to be dynamic with our data.

Until this push happens, we’ll never be able to make meaningful campaign optimisations in real time. Perhaps our trading desks might be able to, but by the time this comes back to the agency and out again to the client, the true value is lost. It’s all after the fact.

I don’t claim to have all the answers but it seems obvious that when it comes to data, we need to consolidate our behaviours and processes. We shouldn’t let the frenzy of our competitors dictate the speed, or quality, of the work we produce.

We need to make more time for ourselves – to educate our clients on the importance of data reason (not just results), and to focus on using better programs that can help us better manage and make sense of our data. Failure to do so will leave us stagnant in a world continually evolving, and we’ll be left behind.

digital starsKristen Lê is a business executive at Maxus and one of the 2015 Yahoo7 Digital Stars

Mumbrella is hosting a video hangout with the Yahoo7 digital this afternoon at 2pm.


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