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Magic Numbers: Being a Great Data Storyteller with Cindy Meltzer

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Head of Dagger’s data strategy discipline on battling the dearth of data talent, especially from underrepresented groups

Magic Numbers: Being a Great Data Storyteller with Cindy Meltzer

Cindy Meltzer has worked in digital marketing for 13 years with wide-ranging, data-backed expertise including data analytics, data science, project management, business intelligence, data storytelling and related emerging fields. Laddering successes as a social media strategist working with brands like Stonyfield Yogurt, Mercedes-Benz, and Primrose Schools, Cindy leaned into her passion points and transitioned into data analytics, developing measurement strategies and providing data analysis for brands including Martha Stewart CBD, Aflac, and Freddy’s.

As the head of Dagger’s data strategy discipline, Cindy is an influential and empathetic leader, shepherding data-driven innovation and integrated marketing strategies with descriptive, diagnostic, and predictive analytics for campaign optimization. An Atlanta resident, Cindy enjoys traveling with her husband and two children, thrift shopping for treasures, and visiting family and friends in her home state of Massachusetts. 


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?

Cindy> Frankly, we don’t get a lot of questions about this, and that in itself provides an opportunity for us to counsel brands toward more critical thinking and stronger marketing. Many clients still see creativity as something that is very separate from data, but data strategists are often the ones highlighting creative data applications and connecting the dots for clients. For example, I may show how the creative is impactful from a branding perspective, and how the brand strengthens the business, leading to stronger sales. In many cases, there is a direct connection between creative exposure and purchase with attribution data.


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?

Cindy> There are certain creative exercises where data is purposefully absent, like brainstorming. There needs to be space for boundless creative thinking where those out-of-the-box ideas emerge. Then, we apply data to fine-tune the idea in partnership with the creative team. Creatives want their ideas to be successful, and so do we; so wherever we can use data to champion the creative, we’re going to provide it. 


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?

Cindy> At Dagger, we’re doing some really exciting things with store traffic attribution data which is helping us to look deeply at what kinds of creative drives people to leave their homes and walk into a brick and mortar store. That’s a big hurdle in a post-pandemic world.


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?

Cindy> I can’t think of any business that wouldn’t benefit from some amount of first-party data! From customer insights to targeting and the demise of the third-party cookie, the benefits of first-party data can’t be underestimated.  


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

Cindy> I’m always thinking about how to be a great data storyteller, and within that practice, there is a lot of room for creativity. I’m fascinated by research on how the brain takes in data and what makes an effective data visualization: for instance, the research on the impact of cognitive load, and how reducing that load in data visualisations can help your audience take in information more effectively, resulting in better decision-making. An analyst can have all of the data in the world, but if they can’t communicate it clearly to their audience, they might as well have none at all.


LBB> "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" - how can brands and creatives 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?

Cindy> A talented analyst really shines as an excellent communicator who can interpret data for their clients and make sure they’re seeing data for what it does - and does not - show. This is why I much rather prepare a report and present it to clients rather than build a self-service dashboard for them and walk away. That kind of hands-on guidance is critically important. 


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?

Cindy> Our clients put their trust in us and our data practice: I don’t take that lightly. It’s my responsibility to make sure that what we’re sharing is as accurate as possible. The keys to trusting data are 1) having a healthy media mix such that there are multiple data sources that act as checks and balances for each other; 2) collecting data at, or as close to, the source as possible, creating fewer opportunities for error and misinterpretation; and 3) analysts who work closely with the data every day so that their familiarity leads them to quickly identify something outside the norm and compels them to investigate.


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?

Cindy> The key is oversight and leadership. Sure, sophisticated software platforms are going to help facilitate data privacy practices across global markets, but the personnel developing and overseeing this practice are critical. These individuals are responsible for monitoring the ever-changing privacy policies across global markets, synergizing insights, and developing comprehensive data strategies for agencies and brands that not only lead to campaign efficacy but ethically harken back to the organization’s core values. This is an emerging facet of our discipline that has become incredibly important in the past couple of years.     


LBB> What does a responsible data practice look like?

Cindy> A responsible data practice doesn’t just “report the news,” it interprets the data, communicates a clear data story, and provides insights that drive decision-making and recommendations for what to do next. Always seek to understand the data’s inherent biases and overcome them by offering a fair interpretation through well-designed visualizations and providing full data methodology and sourcing transparency.


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

Cindy> So many people think of data as “the report that comes at the end” to indicate whether or not the campaign was effective. Data is not an afterthought. Data should have a role throughout the lifecycle of a campaign, from discovery and planning to concepting, execution, evaluation, and optimization. Integrating data across these touchpoints is not only beneficial but critical as it offers key insights into the competitive landscape, consumer behavior, optimal media mix, and creative performance. This kind of cross-disciplinary collaboration and assimilation has contributed tremendously to Dagger’s success record. 


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

Cindy> Our industry is battling the dearth of data talent, especially from underrepresented groups. The field continues to be dominated by white men while so much of data analysis relies on interpretation and communication skills that can be found in able practitioners of varied ages, races, religions, national origins, and gender identities. At Dagger, we’re acutely aware that diversity in viewpoints leads to diversity in ideas, knowledge, and ways of doing things that empower us to do incredible work and strengthens the data strategy discipline on the whole. We’re very intentional about candidate diversity, and I call on the other data strategists to do the same.  

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Dagger, Fri, 13 May 2022 09:16:16 GMT