Big Data at Ad Age Digital

Want to know what keeps a CMO awake at night? Want to know what gives them anxiety? Call it revenge of the nerds, but according to John Kennedy from IBM, it is Big Data Preparedness. 70% of all CMOs polled by IBM state that their number one fear is trying to figure out how to harness the Big Data tsunami. Kennedy spoke at Ad Age's Digital conference held in NYC last week. Tuesday's schedule was a cornucopia of Big Data seminars and a treat for me personally.

Back in 2003, as SVP of Research, I wrote an internal memo to our C suite of executives telling them about the value and opportunity we had in our company's unique and passively collected RPD.  I am no longer at that company but I take pride in knowing that they had all the strategic preparedness they needed at the time to plan their Big Data strategies. Big Data has accelerated in importance in the marketplace since then and there are many more Big Data sets available that can be merged, fused or analyzed in their own right to provide value not only for the originating company but also for its clients and customers.

But the specter of big data drives fear in the hearts of marketers and other end users who strive to corral it, understand it, analyze it and gain monetize-able, actionable insights from it. How can you make sense of all the data so that its conclusions can be merged into business strategies?
Ad Age’s conference devoted a half day to Big Data presentations running the gamut from data worth to data usage to data future. In debating the merits of big data, Penry Price of M&D noted that Big Data unto itself is not a panacea. “Data is just one part. Intuition and knowing what to do with it is another. What I am looking for is a predictive signal to help me understand my consumer better.” That is why having an analytics expert who is well versed in storytelling can add so much insight value into a dataset. 

KPCB’s Ray Bradford spoke about the four V’s of Big Data: Velocity, Volume, Variety and Veracity. (translation: Real or Near-Real Time capability, Granularity, Multi-Source and Reliability). The fifth V is Venture opportunity where data originating companies can form an entirely new data-driven business. Bradford concluded that “Companies are using data today increasingly in activation and engagement, advertising in effectiveness and targeting, data driven product development - what product and what they want, decision support for transparency and automated rules engines.” The potential uses for good data analytics continue to expand.

But we need to close the data science skills gap. Here are a couple of ideas that might increase Data Preparedness and help companies navigate this Brave New World of Big Data:
1- Let’s integrate Research into all aspects of a company, giving the department their own discretionary budget for data experimentation and then, give Research a seat at the C suite decision making  table.
2- According to Newark mayor and keynote speaker Cory Booker, "We do not have an unemployment crisis. We have a training crisis.” Let’s find ways to enhance or create research analytics curriculums at the university level. Some schools like City College in NYC are starting to develop just such a program.
3- Establish mentoring programs within companies and via trade organizations where established data experts are matched to students and entry level associates.

Big Data will only be as valuable as the actionable insights derived from datasets. The need is now for astute storytellers who are well versed in research analytics to float Big Data insights from a sea of datasets. Ad Age’s Digital Conference highlighted the issues. Industry follow-up is the next step.

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