Scrutiny bringing data to forefront

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Like the high-school geek who uses his brainpower to surpass the success of his handsome, football-playing counterpart, direct and database profes­sionals are finding the marketing world coming around to fully appreciating the breadth and depth of their sought-after talents.

The fact is, data is the new sexy in the world of mar­keting. Everyone wants it. Everyone needs it. Everyone wants more of it. Daniel Morel, CEO of Wunderman, agrees, using that very word in a conversation with me last week about the world of DM agencies for an upcoming Agency Business Report we'll be publishing in May. “[DM] is becoming sexy,” he says. “We were the invisible part of the ad world, the guys working the data, the guys working the numbers… but now we're becoming more front-row for the client.”

It's not surprising that suddenly, marketers are seeing database expertise in a whole new light. The economic cliff-dive that the US has experienced over the past year means that in order to survive, companies can no longer spend their marketing budget without attending to every detail of the bottom line. Measurement is being recognized as an absolute necessity rather than an after­thought, and campaigns that use clean data and tools that offer better targeting and segmenting are making CMOs hearts flutter across the country.

I had lunch last Wednesday with John Meyer, the CEO of Acxiom, and Michael Darviche, the company's CMO. These Little Rock, AR-based folks gave me the vibe that they're quite confident about who they are and their legacy in direct marketing and data manage­ment. Sure, everything they do these days is dressed up in pretty (and equally important) words such as multichannel and integration, but there's no question that in its heart and soul it's all about the data.

“The recession is creating scrutiny,” Meyer told me. “It's making measurable marketing the Holy Grail.”

Obviously, here at DMNews, we're big supporters of such fervor — and, to that end, we were excited to part­ner with Cognitive Data on our first data management survey, the highlights of which will appear alongside an in-depth feature in our May 4 print edition and online at DMNews.com. The survey of more than 250 data management professionals illuminate the challenges of everything from data integration, technology investment and cleansing to access, accuracy and cost.

Of course, traditional direct marketers probably want to raise their hands in protest over what may seem like a belated bow by the larger marketing community to the science behind DM. And digital marketers, after all, have been digging deep into data for over 15 years. But hey — I'm never going to turn down a compliment on behalf of our industry, particularly as I see marketers struggling to find their footing. If it means more marketing budgets turning towards direct and digital thanks to the power of data, “sexy” sounds just fine to me.

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