Filling the Data Consultancy Vacuum

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Filling the Data Consultancy Vacuum

(Writers’ note: This post is in part based on remarks made by me at the 2018 asi Conference.)  Last week was the annual asi International TV and Video Conference, held this year in Athens.  The asi has become an institution:  It has been held 28 years consecutively, with this year’s delegates (and speakers) coming from countries as diverse as Russia, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, the U.S.A., many mainland European markets, the Nordics and the U.K.  The focus is on measurement and data, an essential and timely topic for agencies and advertisers, as well as for broadcasters, the JIC systems and the research organizations.  Yet, few of the international network agencies show up (the usual response is, “We have a travel ban,” which I can’t help but notice mysteriously seems to evaporate come Cannes), presumably preferring to shout from the side-lines about how inadequate the measurement techniques are when it comes to multi-screens, multi-platforms and the rest.  It is after all far easier to criticize others than to join in any effort to solve the issues of the day.  You have to feel for the Kantars, the Nielsens, the gfks and the rest who go to great lengths to share their latest thoughts and efforts only to go home and read comments on how useless they are at solving “our real issues” from people who can’t be bothered to find out what’s going on.

The advertiser community needs help dealing with the vast quantities of data generated not only from third parties (like social media platforms and the audience measurement organizations) but also from their own first-party data-sets.  It’s one reason why advertisers are increasingly taking what used to be perceived as media agency tasks in-house.

In Norway, for example, the consumer goods conglomerate Orkla has combined with the country’s largest bank, DNB, to set up an in-house data business.  As DNB’s company statement puts it, “DNB and Orkla are creating a common company in data-driven marketing.  This is as a specific response to the major changes in the media market and the need for greater ownership and a more thorough management of consumer data.”

Agencies should be worried – as I have said many times before, advertisers’ trust in their agencies is at a low point.  Why would you hand over responsibility for your data assets to an organization you don’t trust?  When it comes to audience measurement, advertisers are crying out for objective, verifiable data from as few sources as possible.  It is far better to come together (as Samir Pradhan from Google said at the asi event) and to seek compromises within a joint industry framework than to keep arguing the toss around what counts as an ad being viewable.

It may be heresy to say so, but most advertisers would rather be roughly right than totally wrong.  If we can’t get to measurement perfection maybe we all have to learn to live with best estimates (a principle which served us pretty well until someone invented “big data”).  Advertisers want advice on how to combine data-sets and how to use the insights generated to improve both their messaging and the placement of messages.

Research businesses, along with management consultancies, would seem to be in a prime position to help -- but management consultancies typically aren’t great at creativity (which would explain Accenture’s purchasing of several creative outfits) whereas research agencies are good at collecting data, but less good at putting it to use to help solve advertisers’ business issues.

The opportunity is there, and there’s a vacuum where the large media agencies used to be.  Who will fill it?

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