Mindshare, PHD and UM Canada discuss data at FFWD 2016

Media buyers share their thoughts on the move to real-time or predictive analysis

No one’s giving up on the potential of using data to create one-to-one relationships between brands and consumers, but media buyers from Mindshare, PHD and UM Canada told the FFWD: Advertising Week 2016 conference some key ingredients may still be missing.

In a panel discussion that touched on analytics, mobile apps and other areas, media buyers said that in some cases, clients and ad network partners aren’t supplying enough data. In other cases, the data being used may not be the best data for the job they need to do. Overall, though, no one was questioning that data is changing the way media buyers will be doing their jobs in 2016 and beyond.

“At one time, the powers that be had all the knowledge, all the data. The consumer has it now because of mobile,” said Leo Polanowski, head of sales specialist and account management for Yahoo Americas, who moderated the panel. “As marketers, we need to realize that because consumers are demanding a very data-rich experience, if they know more than you, it’s not going to reflect well on your brand.”

Devon MacDonald, Mindshare Canada’s chief strategy officer, said part of the problem is that much of what’s done today is based on historical data. (This could include how many people clicked on a particular link in a campaign, for instance.) There’s less focus on creating more predictive data models that anticipate consumer behaviour.

“Data is more valuable than a lot of the products that some clients sell,” he said. “They don’t realize how much information they have. There’s so much of it. In terms of real one-to-one audience building, there’s so much more that can be done. We need to be able to focus on who you’re talking to and what’s going to be contextually relevant to them.”

Being predictive won’t happen, however, unless the industry can first move past historical context to monitoring and analyzing things as they happen, argued Matt Ramella, vice-president of digital at UM Canada. He didn’t see the data as an overly abundant resource.

“We’ve had some of this with things like weather and sports scores, but we have to think of those opportunities that are relevant for brands. We’re data starved in Canada and we need more data.”

Firms like Yahoo could be particularly helpful, MacDonald suggested, even if it’s supplying information in aggregate to media buyers.

“Some data you need to keep, of course, but the more information that we have and we’re able to use to develop the insights and behavior, the better off the advertiser is going to be, and the platform is going to be,” he said. “To be able to go back and say, ‘Here’s the investment, here’s the people we reached,’ that’s much more compelling than buying on impressions, where it’s just eyeballs as opposed to an action. That action data is that we’re really interested in.”

Of course, the consumer touch points are evolving well beyond desktop PCs, but that only makes it tougher, said Matt Devlin, managing director of communications planning at PHD.

“Advertising not long ago was competing with the remote control for attention. When you get to mobile, it’s a whole different kind of competition. They’re used to controlling the real world, not the content,” he said. “Consumers’ expectation of what they can get out of that device is a different order of magnitude. It’s much more complicated. I don’t think we’ve really figured that out yet, even though it’s a fantastic reach medium.”

In the long term, best practices in the use of data could redefine the relationship between media buyers and their clients, MacDonald said.

“The brands that control their own system where you can complete the loop are the best,” he said, citing CPG firms that could offer real store-level data of what consumers are doing as an example. “Consumers can see that you know stuff about them and that you are being helpful. They will give information if there’s a value exchange back. Most of us stop at a border.”

FFWD: Advertising Week 2016 continues through Friday.

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