“We’ve seen the decline in effectiveness and we’ve got more data than ever,” says Newsworks’ Executive Chair Tracy de Groose, cutting to the heart of the paradox at the heart of marketing.
Data is, allegedly, the new oil, and like a cormorant at Deepwater Horizon, the industry is swimming in it. Or perhaps drowning. This summer’s discomfiting IPA report from Peter Field and Les Binet revealed a decrease in advertising’s creative effectiveness since 2008, with short termism identified as one of the key culprits. So if data is supposed to be the key to unlocking amped-up, impactful marketing… what has gone wrong? And what can be done to make to go right?
That’s the background to Effweek 2019 in London, where brands, creative and media planners, and research companies are convening in the Science Museum to discuss all things ‘effectiveness’.
As marketers discussed what it means to be a ‘21st Century Brands’, three disruptors revealed that while data is an undeniably key asset, and one that start-ups, due to their small size and relative lack of hierarchy and silos, can access easily it, their biggest challenge is to rise above second-by-second ups and downs.
“Habito is super data-driven, we watch everything. Every single movement of every single number, every single day, which is both good and terrible,” revealed CMO of the mortgage provider, Abba Newbery. “because we’re small enough for most of those data movements to not mean anything and not be statistically significant… the hard thing for us is to figure out what are the important movements. The hardest thing for me is to not let marketing be judged in the short term because of course marketing does work in the short term… but actually that is about 30% of what we want marketing to do.”
For Olly Snodder VP of Brand and Creative at Deliveroo, it’s a similar picture. The food delivery app has ‘postcode-by-postcode’ info flooding in from multiple marketings but in some respects, he says, ‘we’re drowning in data’, and a big part of his job is to avoid being seduced by short termism.
Total Media’s Lucas Brown paints a vivid picture – in 2025 there will be 175 zetabytes of new data, 30% of the data we’ll be using in 2025 will be realtime. The very human tendency to react to what is infront of us at any given moment ‘There’s a lack of innovation in the way we think of it but more importantly there is this danger of falling into .. a spin and bin mentality. The fact that we react so quickly to some of the metrics that we’re seeing is a big challenge to us.”
But while speakers agreed that hyperfocus on short term and real time data had been unhelpfully distracting, no one was advocating an entirely long term approach either. Indeed, says Confused.com’s Samuel Day, it’s not only effective to combine the two from a brand perspective but also from a career perspective.
“The CMOs that get sacked fastest are those that those that just focus on long term. Then it’s the guys that focus on the short term. Those that do the long and the short of it survive a bit longer,” he says. “There is a thing about tenure – it’s about trust with CMOS, they build enough short term gain to buy yourself enough time for your long term plans to come up.”
It isn’t just the volume and speed of data that’s causing a headache – nor the short term-long term balance – there’s also an ‘analysis paralysis’ as Gain Theory Matthew Chappell dubs it. Competing methodologies of data analysis are throwing up contradictory findings and predictions, with econometrics, attribution and experimental models pointing in different directions.
Says adam&eveDDB’s Group Head of Effectiveness, Les Binet: “We’ve got all this data on our hands and data is pretty dumb. It depends on what you do with the data. There are different ways of interpereting the data, there are different ways of building models and they are saying different things. And I think anyone who really studies this properly will say ‘who do we believe?’”
He says that he’s found more useful insight in experimental models and, while they are resource intensive urges agencies and brands to engage.
But, when driven by – so how can marketers make better use of data, make more effective decisions and balance short term demands with long term sustainability and growth?
Well, for the creatives who are still reading, there’s some good news. According to the past three years of Diageo’s experience, creativity holds the key and the secret – and combined with a more thoughtful approach to data it can lead to greater demonstrable impact and (agencies and production companies of the world rejoice) even an increase in marketing spend. Andrew Geoghegan, Global Planning Director, and Adam Ben-Yousef, Global Marketing Effectiveness Director recount a four year journey. In 2015 the £12bn drinks company was home to a sprinkling of data enthusiasts, without much sway in the business. When the firm announced a £500m ‘productivity’ drive, the marketing team decided to resist the usual narrative of cost-cutting hitting marketing first. Instead they used it as a platform to launch a huge data initiative that they estimated would contribute £100m to the productivity drive – not through efficiencies but through more effective marketing.
Their internal data platform was able to help them identify the most impactful areas for marketing spend by allowing them to see what had previously worked on a market-by-market, brand-by-brand basis, with an instant forecasting model for long and short term results. And they also found that creativity was a core differentiator – strong creative has a 13x greater effect on sales than weak. This has triggered their internal ‘Creative Sparks’ programme and the brand has increased its marketing spend since 2016 by 31%.
But what is true for one sector is not necessarily true for any other. Simon James presents Publicis Sapient’s research into finance and finds that the sector now spends five times as much money on customer experience as it does on marketing and that challenger brands like Monzo are showing that investment in digital CX is a huge growth driver. Right now though, in massive corporate finance brands, that experience is not owned by the CMO.
But that Monzo example caused some friction between speakers. It’s a brand that has been built on digital customer experience and word of mouth, but it’s jump to more traditional forms of marketing like TV this summer also triggered a wave of sign ups (250,000 new customers reportedly joined after the first TV campaign, more than doubling its existing 150,000 base). Indeed, the message of the morning was that while data and new sources of insight and pathways to growth represent enormous potential advantage, the key is to integrate these new tools and methodologies with experience, tried and tested principals.
As Habito’s Abba Newbery argues, buoyed by the success of her brand’s switch from ‘cappuccino’ blandenss to punchy, emotive, cartoony creative. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”