How will a recession change the way agencies and brands use consumer data?
For The Drum’s Data and Privacy Deep Dive, we ask data experts at Accenture Song, VCCP, Acxiom, Carat and Space & Time about their predictions for 2023.
What issues will agency data experts be prioritizing over the next year? / Unsplash
Data operations are an increasingly important part of every agency’s market proposition, but to keep pace with the competition they’ll need to be attuned to risks and opportunities coming up around the bend.
The first – and likely largest variable – on the horizon is the state of the global economy. More pressure on budgets and on agencies to be accountable for the impact of their clients’ spending will likely drive demand for data solutions.
Michael Galenianos, global head of insight innovation at Carat, says: “We know that client budgets are under pressure so we need to develop data strategies, relying on machine learnings that cannot function without the human touch, which will help us make every euro, pound or dollar work harder.”
Efficiency under pressure
While effectiveness and efficiency have always been watchwords, a recession will add to their importance. According to Daryl Swinden, head of data strategy at VCCP: ”Understanding and proving how effective we are, as an industry, is fast becoming a huge priority.”
In particular, solutions that help clients pull customers lower and lower into the sales funnel will grow in importance, as highlighted by S4’s Sir Martin Sorrell this week. Galenianos says: “This means doubling down on data strategies unlocking customers who are ready to covert ‘now’ while identifying those who will help us prepare and build for what’s next. And this isn’t something we can necessarily do with first-party data alone. Finding and building the right partnerships, with safe and transparent data collaboration will be key.”
Swinden notes that further demand for digital transformation at brands will also boost the hunger for precise digital solutions. ”Many of our clients have gone through, are going through or are planning to go through a digital transformation exercise, which gives huge opportunities to harness and act on data. With new learnings and new ways to keep in touch with customers, this is a vast opportunity for agencies to support brands and their customers.”
Tom Carter sees more widespread adoption of marketing automation as one answer to that problem. The business director of technology at indie media agency Space & Time tells us: “Businesses of all sizes are now combining data into more capable, wide-ranging measurement and insights ecosystems, and demanding that partners and providers support their wider goals.”
He says: “It’s a given that most analytics and ad platforms now offer some form of automation. This includes suggestions on emerging trends and patterns to interrogate, as well as anomaly detection for campaign metrics that fall outside usual levels and warrant investigation. Google Analytics 4, for example, offers new predictive metrics including purchase probability, revenue prediction and churn probability – all particularly useful for e-commerce outcomes and app reporting.”
Applied machine learning and predictive models could make client operations more efficient, he argues. “An array of factors mean that these can be useful for individual analysis and optimization within the confines of the data available to the platforms. However, with the trend towards the centralization of business data, I predict there will be an expectation and acceleration of applying machine learning and predictive measures to the broader combined data set in 2023.”
David Keens, EMEA head of product for Acxiom, tells The Drum that ”information technology innovations such as machine learning and AR/VR will continue to develop and lead to new advertising futures, as they will need to new types of data being accessible to advertisers.”
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Standards and privacy
Though cookie deprecation has been pushed back to 2024, Galenianos points out that getting ahead of that change can now also save clients money. Greater selectivity on data collection should drive efficiencies, he says. “The world is changing, consumers are changing and, subsequently, our industry needs to evolve beyond purely gathering data for data’s sake. The future of our industry relies on the value, flexibility and unification of relevant data. Clients and agencies must join forces to ensure consistency and maximize value of their data.”
The shift away from third-party cookies might edge industry standardization efforts forward over the next 12 months, says Galenianos. “The long-anticipated deprecation of cookies won’t make our lives easier, but we see this as a huge opportunity for new technologies and enhanced collaboration with media owners. Through which, we should expect the emergence of new industry standardization and ways of measuring not only the traditional success metrics, but also social and sustainability impacts.”
A lighter-touch on data collection efforts also echoes the thoughts of Amir Malik, managing director of growth marketing at Accenture Song, who wants the sector to pursue an approach of “privacy by design.“ Marketers, he says, need “strategies for data that navigate the impact of privacy controls.“
Keens says that agencies will likely need to think outside the box to keep clients satisfied: “Brands starting to lean towards aggregation techniques and cohorts built from their own first-party data sets, meaning agencies like Acxiom will need to create new services to help clients meet this demand.“
“The effects of these enforcements by the biggest device producers on the planet are existential and are putting pressure on the data strategies of most businesses. The prevention of free-flowing data pipes across different apps and devices has proven that the single critical asset for direct-to-consumer growth is uncensored data utilization and data exploitation.“
To that end, Malik is advising clients to integrate consumer consent across each of their digital channels and to utilize identity technology platforms such as Segement and Teavaro, which can make use of data within a more secure ecosystem. Data clean rooms and trusted data partners – loyalty schemes, for example – will be key.
He concludes: “By addressing key areas, businesses can ensure their data remains a key asset in their continued growth.“
For more on how the world of data-driven advertising and marketing is evolving, check out our latest Deep Dive.