Data is not the enemy

Posted on

A random happening upon a bookshop led Tammy Einav, a senior at a major global creative agency, to make an unplanned purchase of a book.

“So used have I become to being spoon-fed suggestions of what ‘I might also like’ that it was only when I was buying this book, sans filters, that I realised such random, unlikely purchases are disappearing from our daily lives,” claims Einav in Stop using data to spoon-feed consumers, a piece recently published in Campaign.

She goes on to suggest that data-fuelled commercial messages have, over time, prevented her from thinking for herself and understanding her own needs and desires, instead, only purchasing products she was prompted to buy by some complex algorithm.

Indeed, data is making recommendations everywhere. But is this really a threat? Or is it possible that some in the creative advertising industry are simply intimidated by how data is shaping, improving engagement and making the ad consumption business more robust and effective in the wake of the ad-blocker mess?

Consider this – creative agencies used to be briefed to create one, beautiful asset. As if that is not difficult enough, they are now also required to interpret data and fuel the making of a beautiful creative, ensure it meets benchmarked targets, and create a toolkit and multi variants for personalisation.

No wonder some traditional creative agencies are struggling to keep up!

But data is not the enemy. The problem is that we, as an industry, have often failed to consider the user experience. A data pool represents real, live human beings. Losing sight of consumers is the true threat.

When vendors consider only profits, the joy in the experience is greatly reduced for users. And users, in turn, cut us out.  That’s why ad-blockers are on the rise.

Where do we go from here?

Brands need tools to create multi-variant, nuanced brand videos, based on data. This element of personalisation can see an increase of over 70% in view through and engagement. The goal should be understanding consumers’ content preferences represented by the data pools – what is their favourite football team? Do they prefer romantic comedies? This allows brands to re-tell their message using content the user already cares about.

Personalisation has often failed so far; changing the colour of a font or adjusting the destination on a road sign is not true personalisation. Also, addressing a user by his name is rarely appropriate and often results in an eerie feeling of ‘big brother’ watching.

It really is the things we love, our passions, that will engage us most. When brands understand this, they can reshape the way they tell their story to the individual. Advertisers should not fear data in advertising, but rather understand it, and use it to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.