Data is not the key to competitive advantage: MediaCom UK CEO

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 6 November 2015

Data has dominated conversations between agencies and clients in recent years, with big data lauded by some as the key to almost everything a business can do. Not according to Karen Blackett, CEO of MediaCom in the UK.

Speaking at the AANA Reset conference in Sydney, Blackett went against that rhetoric.

"When we try to predict the future we get it wrong, and we tend to be overly optimistic,” she said.

“There are plenty of experts who have talked about how data and technology will shape the future.

“I think, respectfully, that some of those predictions are wrong.”

The idea that more data is giving us better efficiencies, and less wastage, leading to all planning and buying being done by machines replacing media agencies is "fundamentally flawed". 

As flawed as the idea in the 1960s that the era of machines would lead to a four-hour working day, according to Blackett.

"Those marketers and agencies that lean in to the problem rather than relying on data to sort it out; those are the brands that will win," she said.

That's not to say Blackett doesn't fundamentally believe in the power of data to transform a business, but that it is human behaviour and insights that will win out.

"Data is important ... but it's not the key to competitive advantage. That lies where it has always done – in better, deeper rooted consumer understanding,” she said.

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