Q&A with Nick Manning, Senior Vice President, Medialink

We caught up with Nick Manning, Senior Vice President from Medialink, ahead of his participation at this year’s Audience Analytics & Insight Forum in a session looking at how to achieve maximum ROI in a multi-platform/data world.

AAI: Why is it that more data can lead to fewer insights?
NM: Data is described as the ‘new oil’, and you can drown in oil. But it’s not oil, it’s electricity, and companies need to be able to operate without thinking too much about it. That means having command and control over the technology. Not easy when there are so few common data currencies. The lack of measurement standards lead to insight loss, so companies need to have a data management strategy that handles different kinds of data to create a composite picture.

AAI: Where should analytic & insight teams sit within the business structure?
NM: We live in an evidence-led world, so there is no longer any debate about the role of analytics. So the relevant teams need to operate transversely across multiple disciplines and departments. Flexibility is key, so the right place is where the most productive cross-functional working resides within each company.

AAI: Why is it important to break down the silos between data teams and insight teams?
NM: There shouldn’t be any. There is no value in insight without data and no point collecting data without the right insight processes. They should be two sides of the same coin.

AAI: As an industry are we losing the art of interpreting human motivation?
NM: Only if we allow ourselves to. Marketing is all about persuasion and that means emotional as well as rational triggers, so we mustn’t lose sight of the need for compelling messaging, even in more functional channels.

AAI: GDPR should mean cleaner better data, has it?
NM: Too early to tell, but it should help. Having a ‘consent’ culture must be a step in the right direction, as long as we don’t take it for granted and treat people with respect in how much data is used in the value exchange. GDPR is just the start.

AAI: If AI and machine learning could deliver one improved solution to help your understanding and targeting of your audience, what would it be?
NM: Helping overcome the lack of common measurement by making business results the main currency, and making effectiveness measurement the main measure of success.

AAI: Block chain, could it be the answer to all advertisers problems, 100% accurate behavioural data or just the next new shiny thing?
NM: It can’t be the answer to all advertisers’ problems, can it? Nothing is. And nothing is ever 100% accurate. But if it really does provide more clarity, better process and less friction, then let’s hope it can lead to a better, more accountable eco-system.

AAI: What’s the biggest single challenge that impedes the successful integration of behavioural and survey data?
NM: Incompatible data-sets, so it’s like comparing dogs with elephants. They’re both animals but you can’t cut them in half and glue them together. People just need to use different techniques to answer different questions and then just use their judgement to make the best possible decisions.

AAI: Why is it important for brands and their agencies to be able to compare online and offline audience and advertising data more effectively?
NM: Because anyone who uses both needs to understand how they affect each other. But there is no common currency, so they should use modelling techniques to calculate the combined effect as much as they can.

AAI: Can you sum up the holy grail of total advertising attribution in one sentence?
NM: One word: impossible. There can never be total advertising attribution because there are too many variables, some of them intangible, such as the emotional effect of creative messaging. The best we can do is carry on working towards the fusion of data-sets with the right kind of statistical skill to arrive at a ‘best-fit’. Then we must use common-sense and judgement to make the best possible decisions. This is advertising, not accountancy.

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