Why are media planners still planning like it's 2009?

As the marketing industry prepares to descend on Cologne for Dmexco, “data” and “AI” will no doubt be the most overused words of the week. Those media planners heading to Germany, however, will no doubt be paying close attention.

In the few years since Dmexco started (2009 for those that can remember), a lot has changed. The quantity of data that can be collected and the sheer power of accessible computer capacity is astonishing. For media planners, whose mission is to reach the right audience at the right time with the right message to prompt action – while staying within the designated budget, of course – the real opportunity is yet to be realised.

This isn’t the fault of media planners. You only have to look to this year’s Cannes Lions winners – like the Neighbourhoods campaign by Russian bank Sherbank – to see the results of slick, data-driven planning. It’s just that too many are currently being severely limited by one of the biggest and most recurrent threats to campaign planning today: bad data.

Irrelevant data equals irrelevant brands

Despite the availability of live, deeply granular audience data, planning tools which provide only vague, outdated insights are still prevalent.

Traditional audience planning techniques like panels and surveys only capture a fraction of audience behaviour and are often out of date by the time they get used. Across the industry we are also seeing how an obsession with social and search means brands are completely missing how we all spend around 70% of our time online when we are on the open web. Ad agencies are missing a trick and, as a result, their clients budgets are often going to waste.

The answer? Granular audience data driven by live insights. This will enable planners – and ultimately, brands – to create much more meaningful and relevant experiences for consumers. Understanding the profile and online behaviour of an audience in real time allows brands to identify as well as engage their customers earlier in their buying journey. And knowing that your high-net-worth audience is predominately female and also highly likely to be into extreme sports can make the difference between a campaign that totally misses the mark and one that really resonates. When these insights are leveraged to their full extent, they can drive business growth, beyond just engagement.

Danish fintech startup YouLend is a great example of a business that has fueled growth through real-time data. Its innovation in finance for small businesses uses algorithms and real-time data to build a “live view” of its customer, allowing it to adapt repayment plans depending on the financial health of a customer’s business.

To raise awareness of the business, YouLend matched known profiles of internet searchers against the global web population to find new audiences. As new behaviour patterns emerged that matched the profile of these searchers, it was possible to identify them and expose them to YouLend advertising, whether or not they matched the profile of a "typical" customer.

This enabled the brand to reach a million users who had never previously visited the site while the conversion rate of users after having been exposed to the campaign was six times that of the average. Live data directly fuelled YouLend’s business growth.

It’s within this context that I urge anyone attending one of the dozens of talks, seminars or keynotes focused on the topic of data at Dmexco to listen. It’s time for our industry to grab the opportunity and demand more of our data.

More Oreo moments, please

You will be forgiven if you get lost in all the talk and jargon around AI and data in Dmexco this year. And while a lot of the focus will be on the execution – harnessing this technology through programmatic advertising, for example – it’s hugely important that we take some time to think about using it before we get that far.

Remember Oreo’s dunk in the dark tweet during the Super Bowl back in 2013? Wouldn’t it be great to see more of those? Creative that hits an engaged, relevant audience at the right time, in real time shouldn’t be a one off; it can be the norm.

In a world where masses of real-time audience behaviour and insights can be at fingertips of planners, could 2018 be the year that brands realise their own Oreo moment?

Ben Murphy is UK managing director at Quantcast

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