Gurval Caer, Wunderman’s chief innovation and marketing officer, is having a busy year. The agency recently launched a joint venture with media agency MEC called Choreograph, which focuses on the intersection of data and creative, using real-time insights to develop dynamic marketing campaigns.
As a founder of digital agency Blast Radius, Caer was an early adopter of digital and social marketing and data. In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, he discusses what’s ahead for those areas, how marketers can use data to create engaging, real-time consumer experiences, the three final nails in the banner-ad coffin, and whether consumers truly want the level of personalization technology can offer.
CMO.com: What’s the big challenge for marketers trying to use data to create engaging consumer experiences?
Caer: It starts with an understanding of what a client needs, wants, and desires—which sometimes marketing has or doesn’t have—and continues with a differentiated unique, valuable response.
If you do have those two things, you then have to orchestrate that moment of connection that is sometimes a very fleeting moment. It could be 10 seconds on a mobile phone. It could be a split second on TV. It could be at a check-in counter. In any case, it is fleeting, and it is hard to make an impression or engage.
To first orchestrate this moment, you need to understand the context of this person that you are in front of, and that’s where data comes in. Data gives you the context of that person—emotionally, professionally, personally, demographically, you name it. And then you have an organization behind this that can deliver the right content in that context.
CMO.com: What is the role of data? Can you data-mine your way to an engaging experience?
Caer: Of course, data helps us understand; first of all, it helps us measure. Data is also very helpful when it comes to insights. You get an understanding of your segments, an ability to better segment your audience by having data.
But what are we talking about here? The ability to, in real-time, leverage the context in which that person finds himself or herself in.
When Amazon determines in a split-second which creative offer to put in front of you, which recommendation to make to you, Amazon looks at a very complex algorithm. There’s probably 13 or 14 different data sets that will all come together within that split second to determine which product, which creative, which message to communicate to you. Traditionally in marketing, one of them used to be demographics. We now have much much richer data sets about customers that are, first, in real time, and, second, behavioral.
It’s Saturday afternoon, and you just went to the movies. You are coming out of the movies, and it’s 6 p.m. You’re walking, and Google knows it. The whole Google Now service is about capturing the context of who you are without you having to explain it to Google. It reads that context because of your location at the time of the day, etc., and says: “Hey, this is what’s around that would be interesting to you.”
Those are two examples of companies that are leveraging behavioral, real-time data to determine what kind of marketing [and communication] would be most engaging to you. And that’s really what we’re talking about here.
CMO.com: You say that we’re more likely to live through a plane crash than click a banner ad. What kind of challenge does that pose to marketers?
Caer: We’re slowly but surely as an industry tackling those problems and moving away from the banner ad format to much more native advertising. And we’re able from the media standpoint to buy the right audience—an audience which behaviorally has shown us that it could be interested in our marketing. So we can now buy at a granular level the right audience that’s interested potentially in our stuff through programmatic media buying, and then we can render the proper creative almost in real time depending upon the person we have in front of us.
Those three things—native advertising, programmatic buying, and dynamic creative—are finally tackling the disease or curse of the banner ad.
Data allows us to know who the right audience is and show up in front of the right people. Data renders creative in an intelligent manner, depending on who the creative is being exposed to. So that is when the data becomes really, really interesting.
If I’m a hotel company, when you shop on my site, I know which destination you’re interested in, for example. I know how out far in time you’re thinking about traveling. And that information, the data that I’ve captured through your behavior in real time, can inform the creative. I’m going to render a banner ad that displays the destination that you were searching on my site and that, hopefully, is more appealing or engaging than displaying something that has nothing to do with your interests and your passions.
CMO.com: Does big data force all marketing efforts to become more iterative, as measuring effectiveness in real time becomes more widespread?
Caer: The short answer is absolutely yes. And that’s why together with MEC, our media sister agency, Wunderman, created this new offering, called Choreograph.
You cannot lock yourself into media plans six months ahead anymore, and you cannot have one-creative-fits-all. Both the media and the creative side have to be much more responsive, much more dynamic.
Media and creative are going to blend so much into native advertising, and they’re going to become so personalized that you cannot work very well in silos anymore. That’s why we launched Choreograph as a joint team, working under one roof, one P&L, one process.
CMO.com: And what kind of similar adjustments do marketers need to make, in turn? Does every marketing department now need to combine creatives and data scientists?
Caer: The short answer is yes. That’s my topic at Adobe Summit.
You basically have five or six different departments, all trying to do a good job, with different metrics. The brand guys care about awareness. The acquisition guys care about conversion. The CRM guys care about lifetime value. The advertising guys care about CPM and impressions. They have different metrics, different bosses, different processes, and, on the other end, you have one customer having one relationship with one brand across multiple channels and touch points. And that relationship and conversation between the brand and the customer better be consistent, continuous, unbroken and not different depending on who I’m talking to, who I’m engaging with, and what department I’m engaged with.
There’s a fundamental job that needs to happen, and we’re seeing some of the leading brands and companies embarking on this—reorganizing marketing internally, aligning interests, aligning metrics, connecting processes, and connecting data sets so that companies are much more aligned with the reality of where customers are. Customers are far ahead of companies.
CMO.com: With the explosion of mobile and social media and the expansion of data they throw off, what’s next?
Caer: Computing breaks out of the PC through mobile, and it’s going to continue to break out of the confines to make the interactions between technology and people ever more accessible.
The way we engage with technology will depend upon our context. Sometimes voice will be more important, sometimes touch will be important, and sometimes we won’t even have to interact with it because it will be implanted. Or sometimes it will be worn, like my FuelBand.
The predictive aspect is what’s coming up next. Eric Schmidt is on record saying that the future of Google is where you don’t have to search because Google comes to you with the very thing you were, in fact, needing.
Not to be a little scary, but Elon Musk in an interview recently said there are three dangers for humanity: No. 1, religious wars; No. 2, pandemics; and No. 3 he says, “I hope AI (artificial intelligence) is kind to us.”
CMO.com: Every generation of technology is more personal. We now have geolocation, and some wearables can track physical responses. We can have very granular, personal data.
Caer: And the truth is, we want it. Look, if we are able through implants to determine when you’re going to get a heart attack an hour or two before you get it—because you have early warning signs that something is not good, and through analysis we can determine that those people with this condition or those behaviors or this kind of signals have an X percent chance—we would all want it.
It’s going to ultimately boil down to whether we respect this fundamental notion of value exchange. You’re absolutely right that technology is becoming more personal, but data is going to make that possible. We will rebel if that personal data is abused, meaning it is used in the benefit exclusively or mainly of companies and corporations.
We will need to be very careful about ensuring that there is a win-win here between companies and people, and that there is a very solid value exchange between companies and people so that I feel comfortable sharing that personal data. I’m ultimately optimistic that if somehow bad guys abused it, [they] would be punished really quickly and swiftly.