Marketers: Get Over Data Paranoia


ADOTAS – As a parent, I could never imagine hiding a book from a child the day before an exam just to see how well they’ll perform on the exam.

But that’s exactly the way too many marketers treat their agencies.

They expect brilliant, inspirational ad creative that will move the sales needle, yet they don’t share all the relevant data with their agencies.

This point was made by Hasbro VP of Digital, Victor Lee, when he was asked about the biggest challenge working with agencies:

“Agency partners are only as good as the information we give them. [If] we give them 50 percent of the information we should expect 50 percent of the accuracy. Some brands hold information and data too close to the vest, and then they blame the agency for not understanding the brand.”

When I started working in high tech, it was common to make prospective partners and even potential investors sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). But over the last few years, the use of the NDA has decreased significantly as entrepreneurs understand that a patent would be defensible regardless of an NDA. Beyond that, the speed in which technology advances also helps to allay the fears of entrepreneurs.

If an entrepreneur can feel comfortable showing their baby – original technology they created – surely a marketer can be comfortable enough to share data with agency partners.

For Sensitive Data

There are some data sets where marketer concerns are understandable. For data which marketers feel is too sensitive to be shared in raw form, some basic massaging of the data can format it so that agencies can derive insights with no risk. This can be done by applying a simple transformation that preserves trends (for example, multiplying absolute values by a factor) or “blinding” data to hide specific names/identifiable parameters which enable reaching a practical compromise between security and operational gains.

Focus on the Right Data

With the vast quantities of data now available, agencies actually need a very small percentage of data to understand their client’s business.

So which data is the right data? Any data that can help the agency improve ad campaign performance.

Marketers should be prepared to share product sales and market share data on a localized level as well as any demographic or psychographic data that has been gathered by the brand team. Campaign performance data across all channels and geographies is also important so that your agency can learn from campaign best practices from other regions or products.

But rather than just give the data, marketers should let the agency query the IT team and the database to get a feel for the data available and then work together with the marketer to determine which data sets will help the agency understand the business to maximize marketing performance.

Environmental Data Adds Value

Beyond sales data, there are other data streams which could help an agency generate better, more-effective advertising. One such data source is environmental data – the data which highlights relevant trends for the environment impacting the marketer’s industry. For example, an ice cream marketer’s environmental data will include weather / temperature, and per capita consumption of ice cream per region / season. Environmental data – which can include competitive industry data – will provide the agency with a frame of reference around which to focus their strategic and creative development.

It’s a matter of trust

Trust is necessary for any successful relationship. In the marketer-agency relationship, the fact that both partners are working towards a common goal – successful marketing of the marketer’s products or service – should provide a strong basis for trust. And the sharing of sensitive data is a requirement for attaining this common goal.

Ultimately, marketers have to either trust their agency partners or find new ones. That is the only way to produce marketing campaigns that perform in today’s data-driven cross-channel marketing world.


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