OPINION: ROKY 2 - The trinity of digital, data and strategy

Peta Southcombe, Andrew Pascoe, Leah Dickenson
By Peta Southcombe, Andrew Pascoe, Leah Dickenson | 20 February 2014
Peta Southcombe, Andrew Pascoe, Leah Dickenson

Anyone who has ever worked in a service industry, especially project managers, is well versed in the triple constraint triangle. It describes that of three common attributes - cheap, fast, high quality - you can have any two you like, but not all three.

Maxus MD Nick Keenan wrote a few weeks back about ROK - return on knowledge. He wrote that it is a key means to delivering great, effective work beyond media & ads, into broader marketing or business areas. We think that there is one key way to delivering a high ROK: by tightly integrating the approaches of data, strategy, and digital. (And yes, to call out the obvious, those are the three areas your authors each work in.)

Before we dive in, it's important to highlight that by "digital", we don't mean online display ads. Instead we mean two things. The first is non-broadcast digital areas such as social media, customer service & owned properties such as a brand’s website. The second is increasingly digitised media inventory across all media channels (including online, mobile, TV, radio, out of home)

A great way to break down silos on the marketer’s side

There would be little doubt that most marketing teams would love to be able to hire extra team members, to ensure that their different marketing disciplines are more tightly knit than a fat kid’s sweater. Of course, commercial pressures on a marketing team make that route unrealistic.

The resulting challenge: on the client side there often exists silos, between their respective advertising, media, retention, product, strategy, acquisition, retail, corporate comms and PR teams. Its exhausting just reading that list out loud, so spare a thought for your client when you think outside your traditional scope of work, because that is the world they live and breath daily.

So it’s little wonder that clients frustration at the explosion of media agency silo’s has reached the tipping point. Modern media communications demands that it change, change quickly, and change in a relevant way across the specialisms like digital, data, and strategy.

This is because these three disciplines from an agency all at one point or another find themselves either pushing or being pulled into parts of their clients’ businesses beyond the usual marketing team. It might be marketing analytics directors talking to product analysts, or strategy heads developing objectives for an after-sales programme, or digital specialists developing social policies with customer service departments.

These are all examples of two things that Lisa Arthur has identified as key to increasing ROK: removing silos, and removing duplication of data work. What’s more, they are all examples of agencies moving back away from being margin-driven yes-men-ship, and towards genuinely providing a product for the client business.

Unlocking speed & iterations, while removing duplication, to get to actionable answers

Strategy, digital & data disciplines all feed off each other, which removes duplication of work, increases depth, and in the end produces higher ROK. Consider this example: digital helps marketing analytics work, by providing more sources for both the original data work, and the re-forecasting (re-forecasting is a key element of Nate Silvers’ perspective on achieving ROK).

Those sources include beyond traditional or ATL sources, such as social media buzz, customer systems, POS and inventory systems, and digitised loyalty programme records. Another example: data helps strategic work, as it can be used to rigorously define objectives. Poorly defined objectives are often the biggest cause of complaints when agencies complain about lackluster briefs. The best way to challenge a client on their objective is with a strong data-backed rationale. And agencies need to develop that rationale quickly, lest the agency wheels around responding to the brief be set in motion.

Why is this mutual interplay a good thing? Because when agencies don't know what the signal is you're looking for, the interplay of digital, data & strategy provides a way to do so. (Nate Silver again here is a key proponent of signal vs. noise in the data as a concept.) A pure play analytics person might not recognize the signal, depending on the scope of the original project brief, while the strategist definitely doesn't have the skills to pull together and assess the data and validate their hypotheses as efficiently as needed in the time of squeezed agency margins. Again, more removal of duplication, which means more thorough explorations of the problem, which leads to more robust marketing solutions.

Being able to develop business rules for a digitally-delivered world

Note that we don't say "digitally-driven"; the change in consumer behaviour for many media channels is a slow burn. But the recognisable content will be delivered digitally. The easiest example is TV content, still delivered to a box, in the corner of a main room, but delivered via a cable not an analogue air wave.

This means in increasingly programmatic ad world, it is necessary to be able to set business rules. These rules need to be meaningfully quantified and ratified (or, as Lisa Arthur would say when describing data hairballs - make metrics your mantra). Enter the need for a strong data grounding.

Equally, we have to know the true, specific objectives of media activity that is outside of programmatic inventory (for example, partnerships or integration). Enter the need for strategy-led objective setting. And finally, we have to know which of the digital media metrics align to the business rules, and which are just more of Nate Silver’s noise. Cue the need for a digital mentality borne from the days of display ads, SEM, and now ad exchanges and trading desks and DMPs.

Combining strategy, digital, & data enables ROK, enables marketing effectiveness

For all of the reasons above - speed, broad perspective with the ability for detail, finding signal, DE duplication of work - agencies can continue to go beyond the media team, or the DR or retail team, or the corporate comms team. Increasing ROK by integrating digital, data & strategy means we can drive their business forward. It helps return adland to agencies having a key role - and truly providing ‘agency’ in the original sense of the word - for a client team.

Peta Southcombe – marketing analytics director
Andrew Pascoe – strategic intelligence director
Leah Dickenson – digital director

comments powered by Disqus