Why we need to demystify data to master the art

New research commissioned by Xaxis reveals the relationship between data and creative marketing - and four key challenges marketers face...

The data story has been on the table for a while but clients want more. How is data really used in this changing digital landscape – and is it adding value for advertisers and consumers? And where does the art and creativity fit into our science-driven industry?

The industry is evolving at an incredible pace and marketers are under constant pressure to measure their efforts. Xaxis commissioned a research study, in partnership with ExchangeWire, to understand how media professionals are using data across seven European countries.

The study found 60% of respondents are confident about the quality of data available to them for audience planning and engagement. But there's progress to be made to unlock the true potential of data – as more than 75% of respondents believe brands aren't making the most of the data available to plan and execute their audience strategy.

It's not due to data access or fluidity. The research identified that 69% of media buyers feel confident in their ability to source relevant data and 70% say they use mainstream data in their planning stages. This suggests there's plenty to be positive about – so what are the barriers?

Four key data challenges – and how to overcome them
The study revealed four key issues: lack of confidence in data quality; lack of time; lack of central data repository; data narrowing campaign reach. Xaxis' Senior Director of Product and Audience, Anand Siddiqui provided tips on how to overcome these challenge to better align the art and science of data – and deliver better ads for consumers:

1. Gain confidence
The key to instilling confidence is working out what will drive your business objectives. Siddiqui explained: "Part of the challenge is of course experience and knowledge – having well-versed practitioners who are experts is step one, but then being able to measure and ascertain what determines quality is the next. We are able to help our clients unlock their data which is critical and its value cannot be underestimated."

2. Prioritise key data points and unlock potential
The study suggested that data can narrow campaign reach 'too much' and this is another barrier to using data most effectively. But does becoming more customised and relevant, in fact, help the industry deliver better ads.

"The value exchange needs to be balanced out. We’re in a very young industry. The industry's taken a newspaper format and stuck it on the web and is still trying to flog that. Consumers don’t like spam, they don’t like retargeting and they don’t like multiple ads on the page. We need to balance that out."

Siddiqui explained how to change that: "Marketers have moved away from spray and pray for a number of years. Xaxis is at the point where our data allows clients to do a broad but relevant reach – which increases the relevancy of the messaging at the mid to upper funnel, not just at the end of conversion.

"Managing and segmenting data takes time but it means we can connect with relevant audiences. This allows you to prioritise the most relevant audiences. You can also look at how you're shifting behaviours.

"You have to take a view that you're reaching the right audience with the right message at the right time – but the cost for coverage goes up when your audience gets smaller as they get harder to reach. In some cases, clients are sitting on data points themselves which is the perfect starting point for this new audience approach."

3. The future is data-driven – it's worth investing in
Another data usage challenge outlined in the report was 'lack of time' – but the industry will only become more data-driven.

Siddiqui said: "Understand what your business objectives are, understand what data you already have to identify your drivers, and then look for clues on how to unlock answers. You need to break down silos, join the data points and see what it's telling you.

"If you're a client trying to manage your own data – it is a full time job. But the value is there. As a business, Xaxis is constantly using data to bring better outcomes for clients. For a client to do it internally, it's an incredibly arduous job. But it adds value. You want partners executing campaigns on your behalf providing valuable, tangible data insights and expertise to inform and enhance your strategies."

4. Think of the big picture
'Lack of central data repository' was also flagged as another challenge for respondents, suggesting a demand to simplify and streamline how data is being managed.

Siddiqui suggested: ''At Xaxis we're trying to simplify the process for clients, working with them to bring data points together, combining it with the data we hold. To do this, we need to talk to marketers in a language they understand, as well as being highly data centric. We have to articulate clearly and tangibly what it means and how it matches a client's desired business outcomes.

"We've been working with our clients to join the data story with creative, as that makes it even more powerful to the marketer, if we can achieve the right time, right audience, right message – that drives a far more holistic approach to the entire strategy instead of silos between practitioners."

Who's getting it right?
Brands and advertisers are making progress, Siddiqui suggested. "E-commerce and multi-channel clients are using insights extremely well – and so are telecommunication businesses. They sit on so much data, which is often digital-driven, so they're well-positioned to manage. 

Julian Newby, MediaCom's Global Profiling Director, added: "Brands like a successful fitness clothing supplier have strong engagement with their audiences. There are fewer barriers for them to get over because people want more information. If they can start supplying information back to their consumers and making it more valuable, then that is really powerful.

"The FMCG brands –  they’re in an interesting dynamic. I think consumers will opt-in to some sort of central data pool and be able to set their privacy settings of what advertisers can see and talk to them about. The trade off – there will have to be a points or rewards system.

"The end result is we want to see advertising that’s relevant to us and enjoyable."

Read the full research report 'Let the Data Speak: Comparing the use of data across Europe' here >>>