Asked why Dentsu Aegis just bought digital data analytics firm Cardinal Path, Annette Warring has a succinct answer: “Speed and intelligence really captures it.”
The deal, announced Thursday, will instantly boost the expertise of the agency network in a part of the industry that is still evolving at a head-spinning rate for many marketers.
“Our world has gotten extremely complex, not just with the volume but the speed of data,” said Warring, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network Canada. “We need to make informed decisions and we need to make them faster than ever before.”
The big data era has arrived so quickly and with such transformative force that many agencies across the industry have struggled to keep up, she said. “Mostly because it was not a core competency, it is something we are building out.” For Dentsu Aegis, that included the 2012 acquisition of Data2Decisions, which was subsequently expanded including an office in Toronto in 2014.
“What they brought to the table was a really sophisticated suite of software to help us work with our clients’ communications,” she said. But aside from media and communications programs, marketers are generating and gathering data from many different streams and sources now, including point of sales systems, for example.
Cardinal Path specializes in making sense of all those data sources to present a more holistic understanding of a brand and its consumers.
“We are facing a 21st century problem,” said Alex Langshur, Cardinal Path co-founder and senior partner. Marketers are working with different service providers and partners, each managing their own digital ecosystem and each with different opinions based on their own data.
“There are enormous amounts of data flowing into CMOs and each of the agencies have their own perspective on that and nobody is taking a unified perspective,” he said. “True insights come from being able to stitch together all of the different data sets.”
Cardinal Path’s 80 staff across four offices—co-headquarters in Vancouver and Chicago as well locations in Toronto and Phoenix— will move under the Dentsu Aegis umbrella. Co-founder John Hossack will remain president reporting into both Warring and Robert Horler, CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network USA. The agency was created through the 2011 merger of Ottawa-based PublicInsite, Vancouver-based VKI Studios and Arizona-based WebShare and was named “Most Influential Agency/Vendor Of The Year” by the Digital Analytics Association in 2015.
“We want to help CMOs answer questions like who are my most valued customers, where did I acquire them, how can I interact with them in a more successful way and where can I find more of them,” said Hossack.
The goal at Cardinal Path is always to embed a data-driven philosophy into the culture of an organization, he said. “That means the instinct is to go to the data first, that is where you start as opposed to starting with a gut feeling or the highest paid person’s opinion. Just because one has less hair and thicker glasses doesn’t mean they are right.”