Q & A: Mediavest Spark's Shelby Saville on data and the power of relevance for personalisation

Shelby Saville, president of innovation and investment platforms at Mediavest, Spark

With 2017 looming, brands are aware that they will have to do more to truly understand customer behaviour. Search marketing specialist Click Consult may have named personalisation as one of the top SEO priorities for brands in 2017, but it is clear that brands will face the challenge of using the right marketing technology, data, and platforms to create the perfect personalised experience for the consumer.

Educating brands about how to embrace digital innovation is something Shelby Saville, president of innovation and investment platforms at Mediavest Spark knows all about. Named in Adweek’s 50 list of vital leaders in tech, media and marketing, Saville has been instrumental in expanding Spark’s digital horizons by emphasising data-usage and even driving the agency’s data-spending by 408 percent.

Speaking ahead of the upcoming panel discussion on digital transformation at CES in January, Saville speaks to The Drum about how she’s been busy testing content platforms and why she’s excited by the potential of streaming audio companies.

With the development of technology and new platforms, how have consumer expectations changed?

Consumers have higher expectations of brands than ever before, and seek to get something of value that’s relevant to them from the very beginning. Generally speaking, the modern consumer has much less tolerance for anything that does not have personal relevance.

What sorts of challenges do brands face in providing consistent personalised experiences across multiple digital platforms? Any solutions?

In my opinion there are two main challenges. The first is providing personalisation, and bringing it to the scale that generates real business results. Most of our clients need to reach a mass number of consumers while still curating a personalised message to positively impact their business, which is a hard thing to do. Additionally, platforms are not yet well connected, so it’s still very hard to create a personalised experience that can cross platforms seamlessly, and consistently.

Can you think of a recent good example of a brand creating a great personalised experience for the consumer? What stood out for you?

I’ve found what a lot of streaming audio companies are doing to be very interesting, including personalised playlists based on, for example, the time of day. Additionally, from a retail perspective, our client REI has done a great job with personalisation. We launched a campaign called “Dynamic Weather,” where we combined gender, weather, and location data with product messaging that served ads that were very relevant and personalised for consumers.

How can marketers harness the power of data to personalise experiences?

The key factor to harness the power of personalised experiences is to first understand what personalisation means for the consumer, and for your brand. For some it may be specific products – like REI’s Dynamic Weather campaign, for example – while others may simply mean understanding more about behaviour and lifestyles that deliver a more relevant message. Some methods are more tactical while others are more experiential, but building the right data architecture to deliver that experience in either case is incredibly important.

Do brands need to recruit for new skills to deliver data-driven personalised consumer experiences?

Yes, absolutely. The skills needed to build, understand, house, and compile data segments are different than those that pertain to general marketing. Also, on the creative side, understanding dynamic creative and creative developments to build personalised experiences requires different skill sets that are equally important in reaching today’s consumers.

What platforms (if any) do you see as exciting or playing a pivotal role in the digital transformation journey?

At Mediavest Spark, we’ve been testing a lot of dynamic and creative content platforms, because we can execute what we want with building audiences, gathering data, and delivering a consistent message.