Over the past 10 days, I attended two of the most important conferences on the application of data to the world of advertising and marketing. Last week, it was Nielsen’s Consumer 360, where 800 marketers and media folks descended on Phoenix to talk about how to use data and insights to stand out in a competitive world. This week, it was the Advertising Research Federation’s Audience Measurement 8.0, where a record-setting crowd of media and ad researchers discussed the industry’s media and audience measurement tools.
Not only was the attendance high at both conference, but so was the energy level – particularly at Consumer 360, probably due to the intense focus our industry is putting on data these days. Both conferences had strong line-ups of speakers. Nielsen had extraordinary back-to-back keynotes from Twitter’s Dick Costolo and CBS’s Leslie Moonves, with Moonves playing off and reinforcing a number of the Twitter CEO’s points. ARF had SMG’s Laura Desmond, Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman and the always provocative and insightful Bob Garfield, a fellow MediaPost columnist.
Change and talent were big topics at both conferences, coming up time after time during panel discussions, break-out sessions and in networking conversations from the early breakfasts to the late-night drinks. The gist of the discussion: Technology is dramatically reshaping the role of data in media and marketing, and folks are struggling with how to find and hiring folks who know how to work with big data and sophisticated data-driven approaches and systems.
Most of the folks in the mid- and top level roles in marketing and ad companies were brought up in a world of small data, have social science backgrounds and are experts in story-telling. The data-driven marketing world which is emerging deals with massive amounts of real-time, disparate data, requires folks with hard science backgrounds in fields like statistics, physics and electrical engineering – and rewards folks who are great at predicting the future, not just telling stories about the past.
Virtually everyone I talked to on these issues recognized that the infusion of new talent like that was going to change the industry. Most were worried about whether it would evolve into an either/or world, where the science of data-driven marketing would be pitted against the art of media and advertising research and story-telling. Most hoped that the story-tellers would be able to hire – and co-opt – the scientists, keeping the legacy organizational hierarchy largely in place. However, I don’t think that’s a realistic scenario.
Everyone seemed to recognize that selecting and managing new technology systems would be a big part of their jobs in the future, with some predicting that marketing departments could become one of the largest buyers of enterprise technology over the next 10 years.
With budgetary power comes corporate power. Those with hard science and technology backgrounds will have a big advantage here. All recognized that distributing actionable customer insights – and foresight – would be critical roles of the analytic folks in marketing departments in the future.
I am willing to bet that the scientists and technologists win more of the corporate battles for control of marketing departments than they lose. Do you agree?
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