Big data needs to be more than just expensive noise

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Published May 18, 2014   |   
James Robinson

For all the vaunted potential of big data, the consumer benefits aren’t fully apparent yet. Netflix still recommends me movies I don’t want to watch, Spotify still nudges me towards bands I don’t particularly like and most of the companies targeting ads at me on Facebook are still barking up the wrong tree.

But as Russell Marsh, Global Chief Data Officer for IPG Mediabrands — one of the world’s largest media agencies with control of $36 billion in media assets — explains to me, the tools are there but people are just doing it wrong.

“Spotify and Netflix don’t model their data. They have a captive market already. They’re not paid to be good at this,” Marsh says.

Marsh cites a ream of case studies to how big data (or connected data, as he chooses to refer it) has already hit large in advertising. These all sit directly at the border of amazing and creepy. He says that recently he’s worked with a client which sells antihistamines, looking at weather and pollen data in order to plan their ad spending. Data showed that people stricken with hay fever buy pills after their allergies flare up, and advertising has real impact only when run at the perfect moment in a change of season. “We saw that there was no point buying media five days before people would need the pills,” he says.

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