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September 6, 2012
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Brands harness Big Data to get more creative

Miles Young, CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, the advertising agency giant responsible for Coca Cola and American Express, added his voice to the idea that data is the new oil today. He drew an analogy between the internal combustion engine, extracting power from oil, and the unprecedented ability to extract power from data. “The old division between technologists and marketers, who would rarely have spoken at the same conference in the past, is breaking down and it needs to,” he declared at the IBC conference.

Young was sharing a stage with John Kennedy, VP Corporate Marketing at IBM, another major advertising customer for Ogilvy & Mather, who said the impact of ‘digital’ has been seen most dramatically in commerce, where companies are actually overwhelmed by the data they are gathering about us when we are searching for information and buying things online, and even when you are making social network comments. “Companies can now paint a really vivid picture of customers as individuals and do that on a really massive scale,” he said.

Young said we have now moved beyond the age of interactivity to the era of ‘pervasive creativity’ when brands become more creative and the emphasis is on harnessing ‘Big Data’ to generate experiences for the customer.  One of the consequences of this is that brands can become bolder in how they engage with audiences, getting more involved in content and creatives and applications rather than just at the transactional level. “When done really well, what they do does not even feel like marketing but it feels like a service – what we are calling ‘marketing as a service’,” he explained.

This also means that brands are inherently more transparent themselves, which means the culture that you project to people and the reality of how the company operates need to align. Leading on from this, Young said that brands who have a point of view and seem to stand for something perform better than those that do not. “We have found that the stronger the point of view the brand has the better it performs in terms of consideration, consumer perception and market share.”

The Ogilvy & Mather CEO made it clear that everything his agency is doing in the era of pervasive creativity still involves television but he also pointed to what appears to be a diminishing role. “One of the problems with the world is that it assumes television is dead but it is not. In the past TV was always at the front of the marketing mix and that is often the case now but we sometimes launch digitally and then TV comes in later. But none of the brands we work with could be built without the audio visual power of television.”

IBM and Philips have just announced a partnership to create a ‘Smart Cloud’ that will harness viewing data to better inform what kind of things people want to see and Kennedy pointed out: “TV as a channel or platform is becoming more intelligent as content providers gain more information around viewership. It is becoming more data rich and we can glean more insights. TV is another touchpoint in which marketers are engaged [with their audience].”

Asked whether Google TV was the kind of platform marketers now needed he said it remains to be seen. “But Google TV sheds some light on the discussion about where information will reside and how you can utilize it in a way that is unique and tailored, and which creates value.”

IBM and Ogilvy & Mather have announced a partnership to draw together the marketing and technology understanding needed to help marketers in the era of Big Data and pervasive creativity. They did not suggest that broadcasters are diminished in this new environment but their insights do outline an important challenge for channel owners and platform operators: to ensure they have a long-term role in this developing data ecosystem.