Data, AI, and Gen-Z: Five takeaways from I-COM Global Summit 2017

I-COM Summit 2017. Photo credit: Marc Colomines, I-COM

With GDPR and digital transformation on the horizon – marketers face significant challenges in using data to create value for their businesses. Global trade body I-COM hosted its annual global summit in Portugal last month to explore some of these issues. The conference consisted of discussions and presentations with high-profile industry experts from iHeartMedia, Webtrekk, and Sony, among others.

Below are five key takeaways from the event.

Don’t call yourself ‘data-driven’ – if you rely on third-party data

Earlier this year, WPP’s chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell spoke about the importance of leveraging first-party data, saying WPP each year produces “$5bn worth of data and research which is of value”.

The importance of not relying on third-party data was echoed by Christian Sauer, CEO of Webtrekk Germany, in his presentation ‘Creating value from data’.

“Marketers need to be honest [with themselves]. A company cannot call itself data-driven if it simply relies on third-party data taken from other websites,” he said.

The technical challenges associated with web browsers and the rise of ad-blocking has all make it easy “to block third-party tools” he added. Marketers should take a more customer-centric approach and start creating their own data.

Referring to the power enjoyed by the tech giants Google and Facebook, he warned: “It is important to connect information but there are only a few companies that have all the data. The data we give away might be worth more than we think.”

Data can be used creatively to solve important issues

Harnessing the power of data has been a huge challenge for brands, especially as new datasets are constantly being created.

In his talk on ‘Innovative approaches to data’, Aniz Ruda, VP of analytics at Weber Shandwick, USA spoke about his project with the city of Chicago, in which he examined various datasets to find occurrences of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the city.

“We found the biggest data challenge in the city of Chicago to be sexually transmitted disease data so we tried to bring in natural data to articulate that story,” he explained. “We really wanted to tell the socio-economic story so once we started data-mining we looked at public health access and started to articulate what was happening and what can be done about it.”

He added: “There's probably a lot of other issues we could be data mining. Crime is such a big issue in the city, so there's always an opportunity to see what else is available.”

Emotion is important in the consumer purchasing journey

Moderator Yannis Kotziagkiaouridis, global chief analytics officer at Wunderman USA talked about the big role the human subconscious plays in the consumer purchase journey. He put to the audience: “How many decisions do humans make every day?” Apparently, 10,000.

“Human take about 13 seconds when deciding on a brand and 90% of purchasing decisions are subconscious,” he added.

Gen-Z – ‘students don’t care about traditional ads’

The millennials tend to get the limelight but marketers could be missing an opportunity, according to Radha Subramanyam, president of insights, research and data analytics at iHeartMedia, USA. In her talk “Gen Z is changing the media game” she said how the children of Gen X are the ones to watch and why marketers need to really understand the part culture plays if they want to target them effectively.

She explained: “Gen Z are born in and after 1996 and 55% tend to be non-Caucasian, two times more likely to be of two or more races, and one-in-three are likely to be in single-parent households.”

Graeme Hutton, SVP and group partner of research, UM / IPG Mediabrands Insights, USA spoke about “TV being under pressure” and the rise of audio streaming. “Students are less likely to notice traditional ads even though they are using different platforms for various things,” he said.

For Michele Madansky, principal at Madansky Consulting, brands should target students at key milestones in their lives. “College is the most likely period for when students adopt new brands,” she said.

AI and machine learning is making an impact

Salesforce acquired data-management platform Krux last year for a reported $700 million in the hopes to provide their customers with more tailored solutions. How has Salesforce been getting on?

Joe Reid, managing director EMEA at Krux (A Salesforce Company), UK spoke about his “CRM background” and how challenging it is to separate relevant data from all the noise.

“I used to have a massive desire to limit data as it was creating more noise than we could handle,” he admitted. “We started using AI and machine learning and implemented a data strategy.”

While William Gonzalez, vice president of marketing technology and digital operations at Sony USA spoke about the challenges of data governance.

“I spend about 25% of my time on internal data governance. It is a question of scale – some of the top companies like Google and Facebook don’t give data back. These are the types of concerns brands have,” he said.

As part of its summit, I-COM hosted its awards dinner, to celebrate the top companies doing ground-breaking work in data and creativity over the past 12 months. The awards included: Data Creativity, Data Science Hackathons, Data Startup Challenge, and the Smart Data Awards. Among this year’s winners for the Data Creativity Awards were MediaCom, GroupM, and SAS who won in the Programmatic category, while Havas helia and easyJet (UK) were selected as overall and CRM category winners.