The Campaign debate: data and disruption

How the effective and creative use of data is shaping media of the future 

Some of the biggest names in UK media are in the room and they have data on the brain. Hardly surprising, given ZenithOptimedia’s prediction of “stellar growth” in adspend of almost 10 per cent in 2016 – much of it linked to data in the digital and mobile space.

However, more traditional media, notably out-of-home, are also benefiting from data’s disruptive power, using it to bring better targeting and accountability, plus fresh creative opportunities.

But these upsides also deliver a parcel of challenges, provoking questions about how to deal with data organisationally, the skills required to fully realise its worth and what role collaboration will play. Campaign, in association with Exterion Media, brought in the experts to discuss.

Everything’s changed

Data provides intelligence across the business. It’s not just a marketing issue but influences operations, planning and strategy. Transport for London recognises this. The plan to raise billions in non-fare income over the next decade is critical and data is directing all aspects, its marketing director, Chris Macleod, said: “Advertising, property, transport planning efficiency and the consumer experience are all being informed by data. It’s not just media.”

Data is cutting right across media businesses too, Shaun Gregory, the chief executive of Exterion Media, said: “For our industry, it’s no longer about selling a format and a cycle. We view ourselves as a consumer engagement media company and have already started the strategic shift to selling audiences underpinned by consumer data. Our partnership with Telefónica changes the game in OOH and is a brilliant example of how data provides opportunities to make these strategic shifts, which also create relevant communications that are essentially delivering memorable experiences.”

OOH and data

Outdoor has been one of the slowest media to react to the possibilities of data, Stephen Whyte, the chief executive of Posterscope, admitted. That is changing. “Now we have physical, psychographic and behavioural data, we can achieve mass personalisation and we are seeing uplifts of 200-300 per cent thanks to the ability to serve dynamic content,” he said.

The trust agenda

Privacy and permission remain massive issues. Consumers are inconsistent – happily giving up location-based data but paranoid about other types. Organisations are more protective of their data, recognising the need to safeguard customer relationships, Gill Whitehead, the director of audience, technologies and insight at Channel 4, said: “Customers understand the value exchange, but it needs to be permission-based. When you get involved with third parties, there is no guarantee of quality so accuracy is lower, as is effectiveness.”


On its own, an organisation’s data has limited use. Third-party data exchanges would be increasingly important, Matthew Hook, the managing director at Carat UK, explained: “Collaboration requires a change of mindset and, with the current growth, it could happen.”

Steve Parker, the co-chief executive at Starcom Mediavest Group, agreed, noting that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts: “There needs to be more collaboration and a realisation that you can transform campaign effectiveness by using one small piece of data.”

Culture of change

While it was accepted that the media world had “got” data’s importance, people are wondering quite what to do with it. It was time to push the boundaries, Rachel Bristow, the director of client partnerships and collaboration at Sky Media, noted: “We’re finding our feet and having different conversations to those of 12 months ago. We don’t know all the answers but, during this time of growth, we can afford to make a few mistakes.” Ed Couchman, the head of agency relations at Facebook, said its next step was to move from using data to improve implementation to providing clients with more insight: “With data, the potential is to move from a single unifying idea to a more personalised approach.”

Mark Howley, the chief executive of ZenithOptimedia UK, said data allowed a fine-tuning of campaigns that was inconceivable until recently. “By simply changing the wording on a campaign, you can turn things round in a week rather than finding out three months later why it didn’t work,” he explained.

The industry must remember the power of broadcast channels, Exterion Media’s head of data and technology, Mick Ridley, pointed out: “There is a danger that we become too narrowcast. However, with the intelligent use of data, we can continue making the shift towards being a ‘targeted broadcast’ proposition.”