Getting ahead of the tidal wave of data

Tidal wave

Welcome to a new series of articles in which we will offer an in-depth exploration of marketing automation: Automation uncovered. Released over the coming months, these articles will focus on key aspects of automation and, together, will form a whitepaper on what is one of the most important challenges facing the industry today.

In this first piece, we examine why brands must begin their journey towards measurement automation now in order to get ahead of the accelerating levels of data that every organisation is facing.

The amount of data generated by our increasingly digitised lives was on a steep upward trajectory even before the pandemic. With global lockdown restrictions moving all aspects of life online in just a few weeks, that oncoming flood of data has become a tidal wave.

Data specialist Statista predicts that 180 zettabytes of data will be produced in 2025. That’s up from 64.2 zettabytes in 2020 – an increase of 180 per cent. A zettabyte, for the record, is a trillion gigabytes.

At the same time, eCommerce will account for half of all growth in global retail by 2025, according to market research company Euromonitor. Meanwhile, according to Statista, global programmatic ad spend will surpass $150bn in 2021. As Paddy Flynn, Global Lead at MediaCom’s Systems Intelligence Unit, explains: “There will be more data, more often, even in markets that have historically had poor data records.”

More data requires automation

This increased velocity and granularity of data will be transformational for marketing and brands. It will open up opportunities to generate deeper customer insights, more often and at a scale that was simply not possible before. At the same time, having access to this level of insight will pave the way for new ways of working across marketing.

To fully leverage these opportunities, brands and their organisations will have to transform too. The traditional tools used for data management and measurement will no longer be fit for purpose. Automation will be pivotal to achieving sustainable future growth.

Joris Garritsen, Executive Director, Transformation and Digital at MediaCom Netherlands, says automation will play a valuable role in translating that data into growth.

“The amount of data is so vast that the only way to cope is to apply some forms of automation. Automation to collect, filter and organise. Organisations that best leverage data will have an advantage over their competitors.”

The challenges that lie ahead

There is resistance to change, however, with many organisations putting obstacles in their own way. Transformation requires investment both in terms of time and money, which is a barrier for some organisations. Other challenges are cultural, stemming from business conservatism and a fear of failure.

Where data sits within an organisation can also hinder transformation, as can a lack of alignment between the necessary internal teams. Lee Walsh, Head of Media at Uber, APAC, says this can often lead to data projects failing to produce tangible results.

He explains: “This usually comes down to two inter-related problems. Data sets are often messy and sit in different environments that are not designed to speak to each other. Many projects have a sound theory but try to do too much with imperfect data sets.”

The real risk facing brands is not failure but not beginning the transformation journey now, says MediaCom’s Flynn. “All brands and organisations will have to automate their marketing measurement at some point, and by not getting ahead now, it will become a bigger challenge to implement further down the line.”

Getting ahead of the pack

Consumer data is already generated at speed and granularity that is outstripping traditional measurement models, such as marketing mix modelling, highlighting the limitations of these tools. Matt Mee, Global Chief Strategy Officer at MediaCom, explains: “Brands are allocating spend and making decisions based on the way things used to be. Automation allows clients to work and learn at the pace of change and even pre-empt it.”

New tools, such as MediaCom’s mLab, a suite of automated measurement tools powered by machine learning, AI and cloud computing, build on the heritage of MMM and the high standard set by the econometricians behind the modelling. However, automation vastly increases the amount of data that can be handled and the speed that results can be delivered. MMMs can take up to six months to deliver; automated measurement delivers in almost real-time.

Andy Cabirdassou, Global Head of Data Intelligence, who has spearheaded the development of mLab, explains: “Automating data collection and marketing processes using AI and machine learning brings about a better understanding of marketing performance in close to real-time.

“This reduces the risk of making incorrect marketing decisions and running inefficient media campaigns or under-investing in more successful strategies.”

It also means that less human input is required on the more monotonous and labour-intensive aspects of collecting, collating and processing data, allowing teams to be restructured. People can be moved into more strategic roles, including interpreting and extracting the actionable insights produced by automated measurement. A task that will always need a human brain.

The impact of automation is far-reaching across an organisation, transforming its teams and culture, while increasing efficiency, flexibility and transparency. Crucially, brands generate a better understanding of their customers, their behaviour and can use that to continually improve customer experience. The clock is ticking on traditional measurement tools and adopting automation now will put brands ahead of the pack.

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