Big Bang Data and Stalking

Off this morning to Numis’s 15th Annual Media Conference on ‘Big Bang Data’. As ever cheerfully hosted by sector guru Lorna Tilbian and with a spanking brand new Hudson Sandler client, Learning Technologies Group (LTG), speaking.

There is much talk about big data, but Michael King of Ebiquity took the opportunity to remind us of Roger Magoulas’s pertinent definition that “big data is when the size of the data becomes part of the problem.” Every minute Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content, YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content and Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos!

Michael emphasised that the increase in computing power does enable us to use this unprecedented volume of information. However, organisations should focus more on personalising the consumer experience and less personalising their advertising.

Matthew Heath of marketing agency LIDA emphasised that big data can help to do this, but only through a blend of art and science can brands build personal relationships in today’s world. It doesn’t all come out of data capture and analytics. Stephen Shakespeare from YouGov said Waze is a good example of when people share their personal information everyone benefits, the YouGov model.

A number of themes from the conference struck me as particularly thought provoking.

Firstly, in today’s digital savvy marketing world there is a big premium on employing talent with backgrounds in disciplines such as advanced mathematics, theoretical physics and computer science. Not subjects normally associated with the creative industries. Michael King pointed out to the investors in the room that if their media investments don’t heavily recruit from these backgrounds they should consider selling the stock.

Secondly, as we know location-based technologies such as iBeacons give business the ability to track individuals “off line”. This is now rapidly converging with the long established ability to track on-line, enabling brands to powerfully personalise the customer experience as they track, for example, what they look at in store but don’t buy. We are not that far from transformational algorithms that will deliver robust, real-time campaign optimisation marking another huge leap in the digital revolution.

Thirdly, as Jonathan Satchell from LTG pointed out, e-learning is now increasingly being driven by the board as it catches-up with marketing in being recognised as a business critical investment. This means commercial returns now have to be measured. With his new colleague Mike Rustici, they both showed that developing talent today is also about capturing big data about the learner and measuring impact on performance.

Fourthly, the whole broader debate about the balance of personalising the consumer experience against data protection figured prominently, particularly with tighter new EU rules being implemented over the coming years. As a questioner asked, “don’t consumers get angry with brands that ‘stalk’ them?” Michael King agreed that the balance here will be critical to brand success, re-enforcing his view that the creativity London is famous for still has a pivotal role to play. Perhaps there is still room for arts graduates in marketing?

Finally, I was surprised how none of the speakers really explored how their business models translate into cash flow given the nature of the audience.

Only Zillah Byng-Throne from Future gave us concrete examples of how using big data can actually drive sales and revenue. She also teased investors that Future’s share price has been flat over the last two years, despite losses of £7.0 million in 2014 expected to be transformed into profits of £6.8 million in 2017.

So a fascinating morning that picked up on many of the themes discussed at the Corporate Communications Conference held at our offices on Monday exploring ‘Managing Online Reputation and Risk’. “Even firms with state-of-the-art computer systems and software are being caught out by criminals targeting a staff member who has given away too much personal information on social media,” said Dave King of Digitalis Reputation. Rod Christie-Miller of media lawyers Schillings showed how reputation laws can also be very ‘personalized’ in this Big Bang Data world.

Written by
Andrew Hayes, Chief Executive