Q&A with Debbie Snewing, Director, Media and Marcomms UK, Toluna

Toluna are a founding partner of the upcoming Audience Analytics & Insight Forum, which will focus on the latest ideas and solutions for getting to the “why” rather than just the “what” of audience behaviour. We caught up with Debbie Snewing at Toluna to get their views on how media owners and advertisers in particular are meeting the challenge to improve their understanding of their audiences and how to target them:

Q. In your experience, how has the increasing dominance of programmatic buying changed the way that media owners, agencies and advertisers are investing in understanding and targeting their audiences?

A. Programmatic buying essentially provides ad buyers with the capability to use many available data points to empower up-to-the-second decision making as to what to pay for advertising second by second. In some ways, this level of reliance on automation is empowering, in others a bit daunting. This non-manual decision-making takes a bit of the guess work out of buying impressions. There is always a marketing dilemma – what resonates with consumers. That’s where research comes in – we need to understand the audiences we’re targeting with precision, and always need to ensure we’re presenting creative that resonates. If we can’t do this, the most sophisticated media buying in the world is wasted.

Q. What single piece of advice would you give to media owners, agencies and advertisers looking to invest in new tools to integrate 1st, 2nd and 3rd party data?

A. Data must always be put to good use – we can leverage all of the available data sources in the world, but if we’re not using the data, or reacting to it – it does nothing for us and can actually muddy waters to some extent.

Q. When working with your clients who are integrating your survey data with other audience data, what are most common objectives / challenges?

A. Data is turned into insight when used properly. In our role, as a research agency, we see folks look at data sources distinctly – when we can do quite a bit by incorporating data – and research agencies are well-equipped to provide this on behalf of clients – we’ve been doing it for years at all levels of sophistication. What’s more, as a research agency, we can now leverage available data to both ask fewer questions – as often we know the answers, and hyper-target our respondents based on behaviour.

Q. Are you seeing an increase in demand for a more flexible approach to surveying audiences?

A. Yes! Now we can conduct surveys using sophisticated event-based triggers (ie, ad exposure, purchase, lapse, and more). This is a different approach than we’ve seen in the past where clients are looking for large sample sizes, instead a smaller one on one interview with ‘just the right’ person based on their behaviour.

Q. What’s the biggest single advantage of achieving faster results to surveys?

A. Marketers now have the opportunity to react in an informed way, as survey results are available in real-time. Media buying decisions are often made in real-time as well, and research is available in situations where it wasn’t in the past.

Q. Are there particular audience segments for which you can see that integrating survey data with audience behavioural data can yield the most insightful results?

A. Now, especially as we consider digital tracking, we can survey individuals as they visit competitors’ websites, make purchases and more. This level of precision was once impossible.

Q. Where you are working with client organisations who have effectively broken down the silos between data and insight teams, what lessons have you gleaned which could be shared with organisations still working to improve the integration of these skills?

A. We’ve worked with insight teams for years, and my sense is that the role that insight plays within organizations is significantly expanded. Additional data sources have become the norm for insight teams, and now often they look beyond survey research into additional data sources. When combined the two teams have true synergies.

Q. Looking at the agenda for the Audience Analytics & Insight Forum, which sessions are you most looking forward to sitting in on?

A. Managing the data lake: Integrating behavioural and survey data to deliver improved audience insights

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