How Data is Driving Collaboration in the Digital Marketing Ecosystem

Stuart Smith, Mediaocean, VP, client service, UK & Ireland, explains how data produced by the automation of digital media trading will aid collaboration and creativity; as opposed to leading to a breakdown of relations between different players on brands’ media plans. 

The unprecedented volume of data now available to brands delivers more opportunities than ever before to target users in sophisticated ways, across multiple devices. Data – and the insights it provides – is now a key differentiator between marketing agencies, and adds value in a world where media buying is seen as a commodity and brands expect transparency along with measurable ROI.

Managing data to produce meaningful insights is something that agencies can’t do alone. They need to collaborate with brands to determine the critical business questions that need answering through data analysis and require technology providers to supply the tools that will enable them to deliver and process that data. Currently, data is largely used to measure the output of campaigns, but in the future, campaigns will be built around insights, with all parts of the ecosystem working together to produce data-driven marketing.

One recent example of data being pooled from different sources to drive marketing is British Airways’ ‘Look Up’ campaign. A digital billboard prompts passers-by to look up to see its planes flying overhead and offers detailed real-time information about the aircraft and its route. This campaign seems simple from the outside, but it requires different providers to work together using synchronised technology, including geolocation intelligence from the plane.

The relationship between brands, agencies and technology providers is changing to enable these types of campaigns – driven by increasingly granular data – and the industry is moving towards a model of closer collaboration. So how will this relationship shift impact the marketing ecosystem, and agencies in particular?

Closer collaboration between brands, agencies, and tech providers will inevitably lead to greater automation within the industry, with joined up technology that spans the entire ecosystem. Agencies have to embrace technology that automates the buying and trading process – driven by quality data insights – to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Currently, there are pockets of automation within digital and traditional media, but there is room for improvement as much is done on a wasteful point-to-point basis with the use of basic tools, such as email and spreadsheets. Some agencies have only stopped using fax machines in the last two years.

Increased automation will empower agencies to redefine their job roles and spend more time working on projects that add real value to their clients. So less time spent with spreadsheets and forms and a greater focus on the reason that draws most to the industry in the first place – creativity.

The UK has a great history of creativity in advertising, and the ads that go viral are ultimately the most inspiring or noteworthy. Full automation will never be a reality as people still want to buy from people, but automating the less exciting parts of the process will enable agencies to focus their energies on more impressive campaigns.

This step change is likely to have implications for the way that marketing budgets are allocated. Agencies are starting to move away from a cost plus model – where they buy media and then add an admin fee – and towards a consulting model, charging a fixed fee for services which will inevitably include data management.

There is also the likelihood of greater consolidation for agencies, pooling specialist knowledge to cater for a wider market. Agencies are still likely to remain in specialist silos to some extent – to make use of the expertise they have acquired – but the trading process will be streamlined across channels.

Data will shape the future of the marketing ecosystem. It will drive increased automation and necessitate joined up technology that spans the entire industry. Brands, agencies, and tech providers are moving towards a model of closer collaboration where they will work together to build creative marketing campaigns based on relevant and insightful data.