4As Communications Panel Discussion Yields The Bog Of Data And Audience Targeting

4as Communications PlanningThe panels continue at 4As Transformation 2011 conference.

A morning gathering featured agency leaders on the topic of “Communications Planning” where buy-side agents hover above digital and offline communications strategies on behalf of the marketer.

Participants included:

Audience, data and insights were the over-arching themes and UM’s Jacki Kelley, who appeared to embody “whip smart,” led off by explaining what is communications planning:

“From my perspective it’s relatively simple. [Communications planning] is a holistic approach to understanding key behaviors that a consumer is taking in order to better connect with them and the brand for whom we’re trying to create a community.  If done right, it can help inform the creative, the media choices, the custom work we do as well as, ideally, the client’s product development.”

Naked’s Wilmington boiled “comms planning” down to prioritization and architecture. Goodby’s Spanier followed that to its detriment, agency communications planning has been less focused on the consumer and what media channel to use, but times are changing.  The “audience” theme strikes again.

In answer to how digital is changing communications planning, Scott Hagedorn of Annalect, “the digital analytics and data-driven network of OMG,” responded:

“Right now, I’m living in the bog of behavioral data -always trying to escape it and make sense of it. The biggest impact of the digital mindset on planning is that in the digital space you create your own reality. On the advertising sides of the business, I’ve touched some many sides of it that I find targeting sometimes can change as it moves from agency to agency into different permutations like a game of telephone.  Now, the integration of previously disparate datasets and tools are moving into one common language and currency that can break boundaries and go between agencies, but doesn’t change in its taxonomy… “

And, what does he call this agency version of the data management platform (DMP) or agency management plaform (AMP)? Hagedorn is ready with the analogy:

“I kindly call it going from “Lord of the Rings” to “Lord of the Flies.” It’s moving from chaos from a targeting perspective to more of a monarchy that can channel all the way through the different agencies.  I think Digital and the way that the marketplace is coming together with targeting and how it’s integrating all very rapidly is driving that.”

Spanier addressed the media-creative divide in the agency world and drew applause with his response that surely did not warm the hearts of ad holding companies everywhere:

“The separation of creative and media set back the agency a long way. (…). We are in a transformative period.  I think the challenge to a creative agency like Goodby or any creative agency is how do you program for long form engagement in the social space? How do you start thinking about campaigns with an on/off switch and start thanking about what’s the purpose of the brand, how could you bring that to life across multiple touchpoints across the digital web and everywhere?   I think your brand needs a clear purpose. Once you’ve got that, you can then partner with a bunch of different shops and collaborate.”

Later, Hagedorn addressed the media and creative agency challenge and the data that flows in and around both entities:

“It all goes back to who is paying for the data at the end of the day. I know a lot of you clapped about creative and media integration. But a lot of people on the creative side don’t want the $10+ million price tag that comes with all the datasets we have to use to all the segmentation, targeting and make the platforms available. I think we can come together, but it comes down to are we talking about a quantitative or qualitative approach to targeting and understanding an audience? If it’s quantitative, it feels like the gravity moves toward the media agencies because of the investment in the data. If it’s qualitative or a combination of quant and qual then it falls more towards the creative shops.”

UM’s Kelley tapped her experience as evp of sales at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and talked more about the importance of audience and understanding what the marketer is thinking about their target market:

“What marketers know about their own audience is so valuable and we obviously partner with them to reach those consumers through them.  Tremendously helpful.  One reason I came to the agency side of the business from [the client side] is that I found – while being a seller – there are very rarely people at the agencies unlocking the insights that I could have provided.”

Finally, if the crowd wasn’t getting it enough, Annalect’s Hagedorn was asked how data and analytics were becoming part of “comms” planning and reiterated his earlier “bog” theme  about behavioral data and how data is being brought to the agency’s new platform buying world.

All the data talk likely sounded remarkably un-creative to creative types in the audience. But, like it or not, much of their world can be broken down into data segments. It’s time for the creative to leverage the data – though panelists seemed to indicate that cost may be preventing it in the near term.

By John Ebbert

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