The hype around “big data” is doing a disservice to the industry because it focuses too many of us on technology and data volume and not what is important, says Todd Cullen, Chief Data Officer at Ogilvy & Mather, one of the leading global advertising agencies of the WPP group.  “What is valuable in ‘big data’ is really big insights, not attempting to collect and store all of the data,” he says. “Big data is really about the ‘right data’, meaning it’s an ongoing effort; a continuously improving capability every firm should have in identifying and securing access to the right data.”

This theme – and the answer to what is the “right data” will be woven into Todd’s keynote session, “Honey I Shrunk the Data!”  at NCDM: Where Marketing Meets Big Data this December.   (Register now and we’ll give you a Todd-inspired discount code to shrink the registration fee, just use code SPG25 to get 25% off.)

To find the “right data” then, “The question to ask is, ‘What is there to all this data that will help us drive the business forward?’” Todd says.  “Think of the use cases – relationships, engagement, loyalty, lifetime value (LTV) and behavior by micro-segments. These are the questions we need to working together – as an industry – to solve.  When we are thoughtful about these aims, we behave a bit differently ourselves.”

The consumer controls the data these days, and while modern marketing is all data-driven,  that relationship must be built on trust and respect in order to ensure accurate, actionable data for business growth.  “Consumer awareness about privacy and data management is key to building trust and engagement,” he says.  Sometimes, a customer analytics program starts with good data governance and privacy rules, he noted. “Many of our clients are asking great questions here about how to do this – big data – the right way. It requires acknowledging the consumer’s new awareness and collecting data accordingly.”

“Using consumer data responsibly is part of the noble calling for all marketers.  The insights we glean from customer data are so powerful for business growth that we need to ensure the flow of marketing data is clean and respectful,” he says.

A long-time marketing analytics geek, with 10+ of experience crunching data into intelligent insights that guide marketing strategy, Todd  takes on the challenge of formulating a new kind of CDO role and becoming an advocate not just for the agency team, but for the marketers they serve.  Four months into the job, Todd plans to do three specific things with his role, aiming to shine a light on marketing opportunity for agency customers.

  1. Develop and inform strategies for gathering and acquiring data and standardizing collection.
  2. Assist securing data from outside sources. However, he cautioned, “It’s impossible and probably unnecessary to collect all third party data.”
  3. Develop advanced analytics approaches to predictive modeling and cross-channel data packages.

Underpinning this work  is a deep respect for the consumer, put into practice throughout the entire data cycle from collection, to use, to measurement.

What data can do for marketing is nothing short of extraordinary.   “Marketers are forcing us to pull more insights out of the data,” he says, “And that is a very good challenge for everyone in the analytics field.

“From advanced measurement to predictive analytics to customer insights, there is a scope to this work that is not only expanding but is essential to effective customer engagement,” he says.   “We can do better.”

Shrink your “big data” approach from a volume, broadcast mindset to an approach that pinpoints the insights and behavior patterns that lead to customer satisfaction and loyalty.  That is how you get the power of a “chief data officer” in your corner.


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This is the seventeenth installment of the DMA “See Data Differently” series as part of our newly relaunched National Center for Data-Driven Marketing (NCDM). Join us at our annual “big data” conference, NCDM: Where Marketing Meets Big Data, and SEE DATA DIFFERENTLY. The National Center for Data-Driven Marketing program features new keynotes and exceptional speakers.  Join us at NCDM: Where Marketing Meets Big Data. December 9-11, 2013, Las Vegas, NV.

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