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Brands must remember to see people, not just data, says Real Radio's Richard Jacobs ahead of digital convergence conference

By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

March 1, 2013 | 4 min read

Brands must use interpretation of digital convergence data to gain insight into an increasingly consumer-led market to optimise their advantage from multichannel platforms, says Richard Jacobs, head of commercial strategy at Real and Smooth Radio.

Richard Jacobs will be speaking at the digital convergence conference

Jacobs, who will be a speaker at the 2013 digital convergence conference in London, said: "Now, more than ever, we need clever analytical people to make sense of digital convergence from the consumer's eye view. We already know that business will be led by the consumer to an extent and choice is a wonderful thing.

"Research and analysis can help us to understand what consumers want and what they feel towards brands and, equally, we need to have the confidence to change and adapt where appropriate, without fundamentally changing the essence of our brands."

Before taking the role at Real and Smooth Radio, Jacobs - who also founded and launched MediaLab - was a director and head of radio at MediaCom. In 2012, he led Smooth to become a finalist in the Marketing Society's awards for excellence.

As consumer engagement stretches across multiple platforms, Jacobs explained how that variety allowed users to choose how they interact with brands, and how analysis of that interaction can boost connection between brand and consumer: "This is about a cross section of consumers engaging and interacting with their chosen brand - in our case Real or Smooth Radio. Their chosen brand is available on every platform, from AM and FM to DAB, mobile, online and tablet. Like most businesses, we have a huge amount of data on our audiences. We talk to around six million people every week and we understand what they enjoy listening to, what gets them excited and what they can do without.

"We've conducted surveys, focus groups and online forums to understand what makes them tick, what they spend their money on, where they are in their lives, what is important to them and what they are looking forward to. We communicate with them digitally in real time and in a variety of different locations, 24/7.

"What is fundamentally important, though," he continued, "is that we have to continue to see our consumers as real people and not data sets. Recently, I've heard a lot about 'big data', convergence and how important it is to measure the impact and extent of social media. Naturally, as the boss of a research team I totally agree that measurement is absolutely critical, but my 'watch out' is that data of any sort needs a curator."

Jacobs will be speaking at the digital convergence conference on 19 March in Ironmongers' Hall, London, which will cover the latest industry developments and analysis. Other speakers at the event include Andy Mihalop from Moneysupermarket.com, Rob Bassett of eBay Advertising UK, Caroline Rolfe of Belstaff and Phil Shaw of Ipsos ASI. Jacobs' slot will consider how brands use social media to change their content in real time according to what core consumers tell them.

"All of this may seem obvious," he added, "but I think it can almost be so obvious that we start to forget it. Social media and digital platforms provide a voice for the consumer and the citizen like never before but brands and media companies have a role to play in editing and guiding people as chosen and trusted 'friends', mentors or thought leaders."

To book a place at the digital convergence conference or find out more about it, visit the conference website

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