Q&A with Dr Jillian Ney, Dr of Social Media Intelligence & Behavioural Science

We caught up with Dr Jillian Ney, Dr of Social Media Intelligence & Behavioural Science , ahead of her participation at this year’s Audience Analytics & Insight Forum in the opening keynote on understanding the cost of “creepiness”.


AAI: Why is it that more data can lead to fewer insights?
JN: There is a distinct irony that having too much data can actually lead to fewer insight. The more data that is collected, the less they overlap which creates holes in the data. The data also collected by marketing teams might not be causal. While we can correlate search advertising data with purchase, it does not always follow that ads caused the sales.

There has been too much focus on gathering and collecting data, as an industry we are awash with data. Many data points are useless and hold no value in optimising advertising effectiveness, they serve as a barrier to success with marketers getting too caught up in analytics. To overcome these issues, marketing teams need to first consider what they want to do with the data, and then explore which data they need to do it. While we can all be confored that we are collecting as much data as possible, it actually makes it more difficult to do our job!

AAI: As an industry are we losing the art of interpreting human motivation?
JN: This is a difficult question to answer but I’d say no. We have more ways than ever to interpret and understand human motivation, this is a very exciting time in history where we have the data to answer almost any question, the challenge is getting the right data. As an industry we are becoming more reliant on technology to help us understand and target our customers, mass automation plays a large part in this process but this is not necessarily the right way. We have become reliant on technology providers to determine the key metrics to be measured, and their interpretation of what this means and what should happen next. We need to re-evaluate the effectiveness of this. Many metrics have been taken from old thinking and re-purposed in today’s world, like we measure car speed in terms of horsepower not engine power.

AAI: GDPR should mean cleaner better data, has it?
JN: This is not necessarily true. Unstructured data is always going to be unstructured so it is always going to be messy. I work with social data which has its own challenges even with GDPR. I still don’t believe that the data will be cleaner or better in other areas too. Companies are still collecting data without knowing what they want to do with it or the best way to process or analyse it.

AAI: If AI and machine learning could deliver one improved solution to help your understanding and targeting of your audience, what would it be?
JN: Propensity to purchase and attention.

AAI: Block chain, could it be the answer to all advertisers problems, 100% accurate behavioural data or just the next new shiny thing?
JN: I think we are a way off this solving advertising issues. Yes, we have behavioural data but the biggest challenge is that advertising is sent at the wrong time. We need to get better at understanding behavioural triggers and the optimum time to send adverts. It is.

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Q&A with Debrah Harding, Managing Director, Market Research Society

We caught up with Debrah Harding, Managing Director at Market Research Society, ahead of her participation at this year’s Audience Analytics & Insight Forum in a session that will look at the impact on both personal and research data 6 months on from GDPR.


AAI: Why is it that more data can lead to fewer insights?
DH: Big data does not mean good data – it just means big. With so much information available, we find ourselves in danger of getting lost in the numbers: data is only as good as the questions you ask of it. To gain real insight requires diving into data to determine why certain activities and behaviours are happening. This is where research and insight techniques are key – they unearth the why – leading to great insights which inspire businesses.

AAI: Where should analytic & insight teams sit within the business structure?
DH: Insight and analytics teams should be at the core of any business structure.

In insight driven organisations, insight drives growth, improves customer centricity and reduces business risk. Insight interprets and aggregates increasingly fragmented information coming from a rapidly evolving and expanding customer channels.

AAI: Why is it important to break down the silos between data teams and insight teams?
DH:To harness fully the intellectual capital derived from data and insight requires the best people, methodologies and techniques to work together to bring the maximum strategic benefit to any business. The best way to do this is to break down the silos and create horizontal structures which ensure that data and insight rests at the heart of any business.

AAI: As an industry are we losing the art of interpreting human motivation?
DH: Insight is not losing the art of interpreting human motivation. At its most effective insight acts as a filter, removing the static and noise of information, enabling businesses to focus on what’s important – the voice of the customer.

Market researchers are the bridge between data and its application, asking the right questions to provide actionable insight. It’s vital that we make big data, smart data.

AAI: GDPR should mean cleaner better data, has it?
DH: GDPR means that businesses have a greater awareness of their data, and a recognition that as well as being a huge business asset, data can also be a liability if not processed appropriately.

As businesses focus on reducing data risks in light of GDPR, increasing transparency and understanding about how data is used should result; with a re-balancing of the social data contract between businesses and their customers. In the long-term this should result in better, and hopefully more meaningful, data exchanges between businesses and their customers.

Skilled market research professionals have been handling sensitive data for decades and must remain at the forefront of best practice, helping businesses respect the people whose data they may hold.

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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

Q&A with Mark Greenstreet, Chief Research Officer, Dentsu Aegis Network

Mark is responsible for developing Dentsu Aegis Network’s global research, insight & data strategy. Previously he was MD of Carat Insight & ævolve, Aegis Media’s insight and analytics division. Starting as a media buyer in the 80’s, he became a planner, strategist & planning director in the 90’s. Since then he has focussed on data, research, advertising effectiveness, insight & digital projects and planning systems.

Q: Why is it that more information can often lead to fewer insights?
A: There is too much focus on what is measured rather than what is important.

Q: What’s the biggest single challenge that impedes the successful integration of behavioural and survey data?
A: Organisational and individual lack of understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each type of data.

Q: Why is it so important for brands and their agencies to be able to compare online and offline audience and advertising data more effectively?
A:This is most critical for video advertising where campaigns are already becoming a blend of servable digital video and broadcast TV.

Q: Do you think that we will see more data sharing projects over the next three years and if so, why?
A: Yes.1 Increase in available data. 2. Increased capabilities in combining and analysing Data. 3. Increase in alignment of data.

Q: Why is it important to break down the silos between data teams and insight teams?
A: To align data and insight strategies across understanding, planning, execution and measurement.

Q: If heads of data are from Mars and heads of insight are from Venus, what are the common skills and personality traits that should bring them together?
A: Martians need to understand the benefits and application of and nature of very simple data. Venusians need to understand probability.

Q&A With Nicky Owen Advertising Specialist, Credit Suisse

Nicky has nearly twenty years international brand strategy experience across advertising, media, research and innovation agencies and is now working client side in the global brand team at Credit Suisse. She has developed comms strategy for some of the biggest brands in the world including American Express, Vodafone, Dove, HSBC, Tate, Sony and Nestle. Nicky is also a Non-Exec Board Member  of The Akram Khan Dance Company, one of the world’s leading contemporary dance companies and based at Sadlers Wells, and has an MBA from Nottingham University Business School.

Q: Why is it that more information can often lead to fewer insights?
A: I don’t agree that this is always the case, and in fact, having a lot of insights doesn’t necessarily lead to better work if you can’t act on them anyway. However we are all time pressured, so the ability to go through a larger amount of information in depth to make those insight discoveries is a luxury rarely available. If that information is summarised or presented well, however, more information can often provide more context and so it should certainly lead to better (rather than more) insights.

Q: What’s the biggest single challenge that impedes the successful integration of behavioural and survey data?
A: For us, the sample/respondents are key – rarely able to survey very affluent individuals at scale so it is hard to reconcile.

Q: Why is it so important for brands and their agencies to be able to compare online and offline audience and advertising data more effectively?
A: Who is offline these days? Tv is digital/streamed, as is radio, newspapers are read online…understanding what connects with your audience and what impact it has is key, regardless of off or online etc.

Q: Do you think that we will see more data sharing projects over the next three years and if so, why?
A: Yes – benchmarking and having context for figures is important for everybody or data becomes a bit useless. This will require more data sharing and pooling (even if anonymising) of data.

Q: How can insight teams ensure that we are asking the right questions of the data?
A: Be clear on what success is and work back from that.

Q: Can you sum up the holy grail of brand advertising attribution in one sentence?
A: To ultimately lead to profitability.

Q: Why is it important to break down the silos between data teams and insight teams?
A: Increased understanding between the teams and possibly different perspectives working together may challenge the status quo and lead to new thinking.

Q: If heads of data are from Mars and heads of insight are from Venus, what are the common skills and personality traits that should bring them together?
A: Both are about decoding the world to help businesses grow. But some look for patterns and some look at people!