Let's go beyond the data scientist and usher in the data artist
A view from Bill Simmons

Let's go beyond the data scientist and usher in the data artist

'Data scientist' was recently named the 'sexiest job of the 21st century' but, says Bill Simmons, co-founder, DataXu, marketers now need to be looking towards...

The data artist is a trusted advisor, who does more than just build systems and analyse data

We’ve all heard of the rise of the data scientist in almost every industry, from marketing to medicine to finance – as of March 2015, there were over 60,000 job postings for data scientist roles on LinkedIn, and ‘data scientist’ was named the ‘sexiest job of the 21st century’ by Harvard Business Review.

In digital marketing, the situation is even more critical: everything is measurable, meaning that marketers today are drowning under huge volumes of data that is a challenge to make sense of, and that they can’t always see the value of.

But data is a veritable gold mine for marketers, especially with programmatic marketing’s ability to unlock customer insights. In real-time bidding, there are a huge number of choices that all need the right actions, with decisions being made in milliseconds – faster than any human could keep up.

While these decisions are algorithmic, creative input is still required to make sure the right solutions are being implemented. That’s why it’s time to go beyond the data scientist and look towards a new expert: the data artist.

The data artist

Where a data scientist is used to building intelligent systems with the machine learning and engineering skills necessary to process and analyse huge quantities of data, the data artist is focused on analytical consulting.

Data artists can guide brands throughout their entire data journey, starting with setting up the right environment for analysis across the company

The data artist is a trusted advisor, who does more than just build systems and analyse data – they need to be able to provide this analysis at a strategic level, consulting on the best ways to maximise ROI and solve business problems creatively. It’s the ultimate marriage of left and right brain that can offer huge rewards for brands.

Some of the biggest challenges in big data don’t come from analysing the numbers or finding analytical solutions. They’re about finding the right solutions for the problem at hand and proving the value of marketing at a strategic level, meaning data science must become a data art.

Data artists can guide brands throughout their entire data journey, starting with setting up the right environment for analysis across the company. The first challenge we always see here at DataXu is finding the right way to bring all data silos from different systems into one place, paving the way for truly data-driven marketing.

The three levels of analysis 

Once all this data is collected, there are three different levels of analysis marketers need to contend with, starting with using data to improve performance on specific campaigns. This day-to-day work looks at different aspects of every campaign, like the different audience segments brands are reaching for example, to drive results.

By analysing past campaigns, data scientists can visualise the customer journey

The second level looks at that age-old question of attribution, trying to determine which tactic or channel gets credit, and how much, as well as how to improve the customer experience at multiple touchpoints.

By analysing past campaigns, data scientists can visualise the customer journey, from start to conversion, and determine a fairer share of credit for each channel – allowing brands invaluable insight into how different channels are performing and why.

While most data scientists are well-equipped to handle the day-to-day data needs of their marketing teams, as well as looking at more high-level attribution analyses, there’s another level where the data artist truly excels.

This kind of analysis looks at the marketing mix in its entirety, including every channel online and offline, to answer the crucial questions that plague every CMO: how much do I invest in each channel? How do I optimise every one? What percentage of sales can I expect from this campaign? These decisions require the right combination of creative touch and statistic-led insight to answer.

These questions were once difficult to answer, but the data artist can now help guide heads of marketing with creative analysis, helping brands make more calculated decisions to achieve better ROI on their marketing overall.


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