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By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

October 10, 2023 | 6 min read

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In the third of a three-part ‘Marketing Now & Next’ video series from The Drum and Think with Google, James Calvert, chief data strategy officer at M&C Saatchi London, discusses making data useful and mastering it for personalization in storytelling.

Making data useful and mastering it for personalization in storytelling

Making data useful and mastering it for personalization in storytelling

“As a marketer, you need to be out talking to customers, listening and understanding them. That’s important to apply to decisions about how you use data and work rules and logic around it” - James Calvert, chief data strategy officer at M&C Saatchi London says that the more first-party data advertisers have, the more they have to “do interesting things with.”

First-party data isn’t a new thing - but as the digital landscape shifts to a privacy-first future, it can help create insightful ideas and strategies from targeting to personalization and building relevance. Utilizing different mechanics to gather this information about a customer means that brands can go on to use them downstream in building better relationships with them, he says.

Calvert was speaking with The Drum as part of a three-part video series from Think with Google, discussing the opportunities to use data more effectively to create brilliant customer experiences and the internal changes required to prepare for a privacy-first landscape.

He speaks to the power of testing and experimentation to be able to do more in terms of conversion rates through the funnel to achieve ambitious growth targets. “That really comes from a process of iterative testing working across channels and experimenting with new AI-powered tools to create adaptations of better performing creatives.”

But in such a fast-moving space, Calvert believes it’s important to set guidelines and principles for AI - not only within agencies but also with clients as they navigate this new world: “You’ve got to think about privacy, you’ve got to think about avoiding any form of data leak and making sure you’re using the right things in your day to day as the agency and with the client teams you’re working with. The last thing you want is someone to inadvertently make a mistake and there are some straightforward ways that people can use the right technology to avoid that.”

The rules of data and privacy are changing and sometimes it’s difficult to understand some of the rules and words when it comes to working with data - putting a greater focus on the need for training. “Some things are quite explicit and easily defined but some parts are a bit unknown and it’s easy to fall into a world where you’re not clear whether you should or shouldn’t be using it,” explains Calvert. “Training has really helped across a number of roles and departments to give people the confidence to work with data in more ways than they wouldn’t have before.”

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What’s more, the dynamics of how clients and agencies work together when it comes to data are changing into a relationship that is “much more collaborative”, says Calvert. “We’re finding it’s becoming much easier to bring people in to raise questions and help to work out the plans and guiding principles together to get everyone on one page to benefit from change.”

Working together with different teams and functions to find a path forward when it comes to working responsibly with data and privacy will be key. “Lots of different things need to somehow be resolved and that’s not going to come from just one person’s point of view; that’s going to come from working the answer out together,” he says.

In his closing advice, Calvert urges marketers to get behind the idea that data analytics with storytelling is an important skillset to learn and to master because it creates greater influence:

“That isn’t a thing that just the data or insight team does, that is a thing for everyone to be able to work on and to master - because if you can find meaning in that data, then you can tell a nice story with it. Then it becomes more memorable and will help the organization make smarter, better decisions in a way that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Watch the Data Now & Next episode here for the full interview to explore practical advice on how to make data useful and drive marketing effectiveness.

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