What Next in Digital: Data is digital way forward

Digital is loudly and proudly declaring its data credentials, and aiming for respectability in the next evolution in online.

Suzanne Bidlake, associate editor (reports)
Suzanne Bidlake, associate editor (reports)

So, sexy digital is going all serious and proper.

Once flirty and out there for anyone's taking, digital is going around telling everyone that, nowadays, it's more like data, don't you know.

Digital: hot, spunky, appealing to young, forward-thinking, creative types. Data: crunchingly boring, appealing to geeks (but not sexy geeks).

So what's going on? Some of the answers can be found in the write-up (page 4) of the roundtable discussion we hosted for the writers of the essays that follow, and in the collection of essays themselves.

The authors' views are also given an airing online, along with short films from each at www.campaignlive.co.uk.

But the reasons are worth explaining a little here: at our lunch debate, data was talked up as the crucial turnkey with which digital can both augment its potency and prove its effectiveness.

Since both those are mighty appealing results, prancing about in data's more frumpy garb hardly makes digital seem unattractive after all.

In fact, data - or in other words, information - has always been fascinating, compelling and inordinately useful to all media. The interesting change is that digital is now loudly and proudly declaring its data credentials.

"The most exciting thing in the next two years is data," says Shaun Gregory, the managing director of O2 Media, who, along with Jude Brooks, the GB interactive manager at Coca-Cola, was at our lunch as an additional invitee (thanks to both). Data, Gregory adds, "is the next evolution for online".

In broad terms, data is able to provide insight that shapes great ideas; find out what individuals like; direct punters to the things that really interest them; finesse each person's online experience, and feed back detailed information to brands. What's not to like?

In the current economic situation, and given COI's plan to pay by results and Procter & Gamble's aim to base payments on engagement, boosting both your effectiveness and measurability is naturally going to be a massive boon for any medium.

For digital, which might be expected to benefit from some budget shifts into cheaper media than television, it's a much-needed shot of respectability.