The data pipeline is wide open and gushing information in volumes so large, it’s difficult to comprehend, as connected devices yield vast amounts of consumer information every second. This is viewed by most data marketers as a bonanza, but the challenge now is to channel all of this precious information in ways that make sense to advertisers who, for the first time, now have the ability to target key messages to specific consumers instead of “spraying the field” and hoping for the best.
This changing landscape, in what is more commonly referred to now as the ad tech world, was the focus of the day-long RampUp conference on Tuesday in San Francisco that brought nearly 2,000 attendees from around the world together to assess the future direction of digital marketing. The event was organized and hosted by LiveRamp, an operating arm of the large data services provider Acxiom.
Judging from the discussion in the hallways and panel sessions throughout the day, growing access to large data sets coupled with powerful tools for real-time audience identification has major brands and digital ad agencies exploring a variety of options that are going to reshape everything from movie production to the delivery of healthcare services. “You have to figure out what data you are going to use and try out different things to see what’s going to work,” said Anneka Gupta, LiveRamp’s chief product officer.
One example of how this new data-driven world of marketing will impact consumers can be found in an unusual setting: Hollywood. Two of the largest-grossing films in the past year – Straight Outta Compton and Jurassic World – were conceived, produced and promoted based on sophisticated market analytics that used massive datasets to gauge projected audience response.
“We try to infuse data and analytics in everything we do,” said Matthew Marolda, the chief analytics officer for Legendary Entertainment.
Marolda’s company produced the two aforementioned pictures and he told the RampUp audience on Tuesday that his team provided data analysis which influenced everything from the actors selected to play their roles in the movies to the time of the year that was best to release them. And once a film is finished, Marolda’s unit conducts audience screening sessions that use biometric response data and recorded facial expressions to determine what edits may need to be made for the best chance of success.
Marolda has 60 people on his team, a group within the production arm of a major movie studio that may well be the largest of its kind. “We have 59 more people in my group than anyone else in Hollywood,” said Marolda.
Another important emerging trend is the power for data marketers to fine-tune consumer-based information to target not only a particular audience, but specific individuals within that group. This is becoming an important part of why major brands, who spend more than the gross national product of some countries on TV advertising, are drooling over a new treasure trove of data that will enable them to reach who they want, whenever they want.
“Buyers now want some ability to do specific audience targeting,” said Glenn Eisen, the chief marketing officer for Sling TV.
The growth of what are known in the industry as multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), such as Comcast or DirecTV, coupled with “over-the-top” providers like Netflix, is creating a huge pile of data that closely tracks the viewing habits of their users, far better than anything the more traditional Nielsen rating services could provide. This is the holy grail for advertisers who can target ads they know will be relevant to the viewer of a particular show, based on rich sources of data.
Aside from the TV and video industry, it is commonly assumed that the biggest data gathers are large search or social media sites such as Google or Facebook. But during one RampUp panel session, several speakers pointed out that in fact it is financial institutions which may have the best data of all, because they see the totality of individual or family spending patterns. Some large banks possess spending data for more than two billion credit card holders.
“Wells Fargo knows infinitely more about me than Facebook does,” said Bruce Falck, the CEO of Turn and a former Google executive.
This brave new world of data-driven analysis, with all of the inherent concerns over privacy, is going to transform marketing models across industries, as evidenced by the comments and discussion at the RampUp conference this week. “It’s like having a fast car that you don’t yet know how to drive,” said SlingTV’s Eisen. Hopefully, the new car will have strong seatbelts because once even more data from Internet-connected devices begins to flow as well, we could all be in for a wild ride.