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Magic Numbers: Adding Humanity to Data with Andrew Spurrier-Dawes


Wavemaker's EMEA head of precision on the need for a deep understanding, seeing to much trust in data and why simplicity is key in having a joint up data strategy

Magic Numbers: Adding Humanity to Data with Andrew Spurrier-Dawes

Andrew joined Wavemaker in August 2021 as head of precision for EMEA to build the digital excellence team in the region. As part of Wavemaker’s Consulting Community and based in London, he covers all aspects of digital for the teams, with a focus on data, measurement, technology, ecommerce, biddable, content and our internal products, with a view from the strategy to the execution. Previously, he was at Mediacom as the global digital lead for Mars and GSK, as well as the UK lead for the UK MCM business flagship accounts such as Sky and Tesco.

LBB> What’s the number one question that clients are coming to you with when it comes to how they can better use data to enhance the creativity of their content and experiences?

Andrew> The one question clients are asking us on how we can use data to enhance the creativity of their content and experiences is around how we understand the audience on the platform we are working with. Different audiences have different behaviours on different platforms, which we need to think about. For example, older audiences scroll slower on Facebook, so we have more time to land an ad with them vs younger audiences. 

LBB> How can you make sure that data is elevating creative rather than forming a wind tunnel effect and knocking all the interesting or unique edges off that make something distinctive?

Andrew> You have to make sure the data doesn’t design the ad but supports the people making it. In turn, the people making the ad have to understand the data – the limits of what it covers, the biases within it, how to pull out an insight from a data set. People are not binary and we cannot let data in and of itself lead our creative thinking. We have to add humanity. 

LBB> Can you share with us any examples of projects you’ve worked on where the data really helped boost the creative output in a really exciting way?

Andrew> The work GroupM did with Tesco to drive incremental growth for them is really good. We used data from multiple platforms to build a messaging hierarchy so that region by region, city by city, people saw food in the ads that was relevant to them, rather than a generic national ad. The ‘Food Love Stories’ case study is worth looking up on YouTube. 

LBB> More brands are working to create their own first party data practice - how can a brand figure out whether that’s something that is relevant or important for their business? 

Andrew> There are a range of factors. Firstly, they have to understand why they want it. Working with first party data is complex and requires investment in time, money and staff as well as a deep focus from the business. Building a data culture is the priority and first party data enhances it. It is pointless buying a Ferrari expecting it to make you a better driver – in fact it will probably get you where you don’t want to get to quicker if you can’t drive it effectively. 

Brands need to examine their purpose for collecting first party data and consider:

  • Why would someone give permission to the brand to scrape their data?
  • Why would someone give permission to the brand to keep that data?
  • Are you able to navigate the different regulations in different markets effectively?
  • Will first party data give you incremental growth?
  • Will all of that time and money offset the increase in performance, or would it be better having a great audience strategy?

LBB> We talk about data driving creativity, but what are your thoughts about approaching the use of data in a creative way?

Andrew> Is there any other way? Data without creativity – or humanity – is just a bunch of 1s and 0s. From data we need to create information, which takes understanding. From information we need to get insights, application of what has been observed to humans. That takes creativity. 

LBB> "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" - how can brands and creative make sure that they’re really seeing what they think they’re seeing (or want to see) in the data, or that they’re not misusing data?

Andrew> Brands and ad agencies need to have a deep understanding of the data – where it comes from, how it was collected, who made it, who is analysing it etc. Then they have to ask questions of the data to find the insights, rather than coming with an agenda and looking for proof points to support a theory. 

LBB> What are your thoughts about trust in data - to what extent is uncertainty and a lack of trust in data (or data sources) an issue and what are your thoughts on that?

Andrew> Sometimes we see too much trust in data, where people overlook flaws in the data in order to support an argument, they need to prove to push their agenda. That aside, uncertainty and a lack of trust in the data should lead to a more inquisitive look into the data by the people using it, pressure testing it to see how truly insightful it is. 

LBB> With so many different regulatory systems in different markets regarding data and privacy around the world - as well as different cultural views about privacy - what’s the key to creating a joined up data strategy at a global level that’s also adaptable to local nuances?

Andrew> Simplicity is key to having a joint up data strategy. The intermediaries of the data process are very good at selling in the benefits of everything you can do with different data tools, but a deep and consistent focus on what a business should do with data and these tools gives you the strategy to build on. Data isn’t a strategy in and of itself, it is a tool. So how the tool supports your brand is critical. Then you need to build a plan of what you want to do, by when, with what, so you can build a global approach and culture that is locally nuanced. Starting with a tool and expecting it to drive efficiency and effectiveness because it exists is a fool’s errand. 

LBB> What does a responsible data practice look like?

Andrew> Responsibility in data covers a huge range of topics including; how you collect data, how you make sure the person you are collecting data from is explicitly aware of how you are going to use and store it, understanding how much data you need, having people in the business to manage data security, making the process as green as you can and so on. 

LBB> In your view, what’s the biggest misconception people have around the use of data in marketing?

Andrew> There are a few misconceptions that are all connected. The main one is that it is new(ish) and enabled by the burst of the internet. Yes, the internet creates tonnes of data, but when did we do work that wasn’t informed by data? 99.9% of the time you read ‘data enabled’ or ‘data enhanced’ it just means a specific type of data use. If you take away the data pre-qualifiers, it still reads the same and we have been doing it for years. When looking at internet data specifically, people tend to think it is easy to use and it all just connects easily – this is simply not true. 

For example, using first party data is hard. Matching an email address to a universal ID has a match rate, let’s say 60%, which then has a match rate to inventory when we buy, again, I have seen roughly 60% match rates. This means you are matching to 36% of your first party data data set with good match rates. This is not good – and this is where the data is designed to work together. Trying to clean and merge data sets before you even start to pull out information or insights is hard work, and it is a bit of an elephant in the room. 

LBB> In terms of live issues in the field, what are the debates or developments that we should be paying attention to right now?

Andrew> The big debate is how far we take the system as it is now. 75% of people opt out of being tracked in iOs 14.5 yet we are still seeing multiple methods to keep that one-to-one targeting going which seems to fundamentally miss the point. People do not want it and the system is being regulated out. The disparity of what can be done from one market to another is becoming greater too, so having a consistent 1-2-1 targeting strategy is slowly dying. The debate now needs to be around what are the options to drive effectiveness and find audiences in quality environments without invading their privacy. 

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Wavemaker UK, Thu, 13 Apr 2023 15:04:29 GMT