A new view of Big Data for direct marketers

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Martin Smith, TruEffect
Martin Smith, TruEffect

A simple search on dmnews.com brings up 818 articles related to Big Data—a veritable cross-section of emerging case studies, vendor repositioning, and a little angst that data may be killing creativity. Wherever you sit on the data continuum, the opportunities presented by the emergence of Big Data are both exciting and to some extent daunting.

Technically we now have access to a range of data management options that deliver scale and performance with standards-based hardware and open-source software. However, as IBM's recent study shows (“From Stretched to Strengthened”) CMOs still believe that they're relatively unprepared for the explosion of data and the accompanying ROI accountability. Throw in channel proliferation and we have potential for the types of false starts and failed ROI that Gartner identified with the emergence of CRM.

As a resolution to this challenge, direct marketers should adopt, in conjunction with Big Data, the concept of Big Measurement, which involves applying the right data with the right measurement metrics, and implementing a systematic model that manages both.  Big Measurement challenges an organization to look at not just how to tame Big Data, but how to really apply it in ways that make a positive impact on the company's key performance indicators. Where this happens advertisers see significant benefit. While Big Data will eventually create a level playing field, Big Measurement will separate the winners from the losers.

Aligning your practices to Big Measurement means focusing on key areas that contribute to the effective use of an organization's data resources: from alignment and stewardship to integration and accuracy. With the growth of digital channels and new media, advertisers struggle to assimilate data in keeping with the pace of change. The emergence of social media and the creation of unstructured data compound an already fractious situation. 

Direct marketers are among the best-placed to understand this shift because of their tenure with the use of data. They also understand audience analysis over simple transactional analysis, which too often plagues measurement in digital channels, including search and display, as well as attribution analysis. However, digital media specialists bring valuable skills in optimization and message management that can result in significant lift.

To synthesize the best of all worlds, a new CMO role—the Chief Measurement Officer—needs to be developed to effectively align resources, remove roadblocks, and develop a new organizational measurement framework that will allow all levels to effectively capitalize on Big Data. The opportunity is to deliver a top-to-bottom infrastructure that provides real illumination, not just support, for any specific channel and turns it into action.

Martin Smith is senior vice president and general manager, ad platform, at TruEffect, where he leads innovation.

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