Why Ad Tech And Agencies Are Turning To Employee Data Science Courses

At M&C Saatchi Mobile, a senior media planner who once created up to 25 reports per week coded a solution to generate those reports from Excel with just a click. The move saved the planner about an hour and a half per week, and now the code is scaled for others to use.

The planner picked up those coding skills in online data-science courses provided by companies like DataCamp. For M&C Saatchi Mobile and other agencies and ad tech firms, the real return from these types courses comes from the number of employee hours saved when non-data or analytics employees learn how to automate spreadsheet work.

“It’s staggering the number of hours we stand to get back over the long term,” said Chris Cardillo, associate director of strategy at M&C Saatchi Mobile.

M&C Saatchi Mobile now assigns new media planners a seven-course introductory syllabus on coding languages, including “Introduction to R,” “Data Manipulation in R” and “Scalable Data Processing.”

Requiring media planners to have introductory programming knowledge has created a new generation of data reporting evangelists, Cardillo said.

At Criteo, nearly everyone who does analytical work has taken a DataCamp course, said Iouri Chapochnikov, director of data science and analytics. Criteo has a subscription allowing up to 80 people at a time to sign up for DataCamp courses.

A DataCamp course typically takes around four hours to complete and a subscription costs about $300 per year per user.

Criteo recoups that investment when employees understand how to improve their workflow and make more intelligent requests of analytics teams in support of accounts, Chapochnikov said.

The DataCamp courses enable collaboration across the 200 or so Criteo employees who work in data science and analytics, he said, as well as the traders and account managers who actually translate Criteo’s data to clients.

Chapochnikov’s data-science team consists of people with applied mathematics, physics or other non-advertising backgrounds, often with Ph.Ds. Taking joint courses gives employees baseline knowledge and shared language to “bridge the disconnect” between a group doing high-level data science and ad tech developers and traders on the front lines.

DataCamp is expanding its business from individual users to company subscriptions for employee learning, and now counts almost 500 companies as customers. The advertising industry has been a strong adopter, but DataCamp’s B2B offering is also aimed at categories that are adding data science talent, such as finance, health care and consulting.

As a way to extend its body of expertise into specific verticals, DataCamp allows practitioners to create courses and get paid when users take them, such as one on writing Python code for search engine marketing, said Robert Daniel, DataCamp sales chief and a longtime ad tech exec.

Data and coding education is a crowded category, but Cardillo considers DataCamp to be unique in its focus on practical applications and required coding. M&C Saatchi also has a subscription to Lynda, a video tutorial service acquired by LinkedIn, but Cardillo said coding skills don’t stick without hands-on programming built into the interface.

Criteo also has a subscription to Coursera, an online tech education company, but Chapochnikov likewise said DataCamp is more effective because employees can’t pass a course without programming in either R or Python.

A lot of employees who work with spreadsheets are frustrated by the feeling that their skills and applications have plateaued, Cardillo said.

“This is a way to show them that programming for data science is probably where they’re trying to go,” he said.

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