Breakthrough Media Product for Brands: Data-Driven and Built for Purpose

EssenceMediacom's Aarti Bharadwaj, SVP, product integration, APAC, and Chinmay Kelkar, head of transformation & regional client business director, APAC, on mastering the intricate balance between efficiency and innovation within the realm of advertising and media strategy.

Data-driven decision-making is perhaps the most used phrase in marketing in recent times. With the proliferation of digital channels and the sheer volume of data that is now available to advertisers, the push to corroborate every premise with data seems fair. 

However, there is an equally valid contra that efficiency-centric thinking powered by data has become the enemy of innovation. The only route to break through advertising clutter is through innovative communications and use of media. 

The hunt for proven efficiency drives decision-making to tried-and-tested methods and stifles creativity. There is, therefore, a role for a breakthrough media product for brands, to balance the need for efficiency with the drive for innovation, all powered by data. 

So, what is a breakthrough media product for brands? This should be a suite of tools and frameworks that helps media practitioners leverage the power of data and technology to automate the generation of insights from the past, and help move creative and media strategies away from the average in the category. Thus, a breakthrough product helps harmonise the reality of efficiency with the need for innovation in service of brands’ businesses. 

The Efficiency Strand: Maximising Return on Investment

Shrinking margins, ever-changing competitive landscapes, and rapidly changing consumer behaviours have made efficiency an imperative for good business. However, given the increasing fragmentation in digital investment, the ability to make changes on a real-time basis becomes limited without automation.  

The key to a breakthrough product here is to automate the monitoring and reporting of campaign data. This enables media practitioners to set guidelines for in-flight optimisation, which can again be implemented through automation.  

Hence, the task of maximising the return from every dollar spent is done by a data-driven engine. 

The Innovation Strand: Moving Away from the Average 

Advertising, at its core, is about making a memorable impact on the audience. To do this, advertising must capture audiences’ attention in its messaging or in its placement.  

Thus, there is an inherent need to push away from what the brand and its competitors have been doing in the past. This presents a unique challenge to data-driven thinking – after all, all models are built on historic training data, which define the possible range of outcomes that the model can simulate.  

A breakthrough product drives innovation, therefore, is built to use historic data to quickly get to the average so that we maximise time spent on making the recommended media plan, which is different from that average.  

One oft quoted example of this innovation strand is in the use of new audiences. The efficiency strand works on finding placements that work harder with existing audiences. However, due to lack of data, this algorithmic approach does not try new, unexplored audiences.  

The innovation strand relies on a test-and-learn approach to fail forward and create data that can then be pulled back into the efficiency layer. 

Balancing Efficiency and Innovation: Weaving Two Seemingly Divergent Strands Together 

A breakthrough product strikes a balance between the opposing forces of efficiency and innovation in service of brand and business goals.  

Growth, for any brand, needs to be planned in line with category dynamics, audience behaviours, and strategic marketing initiatives. In each of these pillars, there is a role for understanding what has happened in the past and how that can be made more efficient.  

The efficiency strand, then, unlocks the innovation fund – the resources and time to drive innovation. This innovation is a combination of creatives that stand apart from the competition, media strategies that pull away from where the competition is focused, expanding to new audiences and geographies, and in using new formats, platforms, and partnerships to drive incremental growth.  

Overall, a breakthrough media product uses efficiency to fuel innovation rather than to stifle it, and is built in service of the brand and the business. By its very design, a breakthrough product is not a one-size-fits-all and needs to be custom. To realise this vision of a breakthrough product, a strong relationship between the agency and the client, which is based on principles of shared ambition and a spirit of partnership, becomes imperative. Hence, a breakthrough product in media would need breakthrough client leadership in the agency ecosystem and shared purpose among all stakeholders.