[Editor's Note: This guest post was written by Acxiom CMO Tim Suther.]
Most advertising is mistimed, misplaced, and mismessaged. And it’s getting worse.
In 2006, Rex Briggs and Greg Stuart told us that 37 percent of advertising was wasted, according to their landmark research published in "What Sticks." Rex recently refreshed that study and says the amount wasted is now up to nearly 40 percent. That’s almost $200 billion in advertising globally.
There’s a strong case to be made that it’s due to poor data in marketing decision-making. The Corporate Executive Board says just 11 percent of decisions about customers rely on data. In addition, $80 billion of TV advertising is placed based on the characteristics of just 20,000 to 25,000 households. Worldwide digital ad spending now exceeds $100 billion, with a large portion dependent on cookies, which notoriously get gender wrong half the time (that’s equivalent to guessing).
So it’s not surprising that every day companies are producing better, more connected data and analytics to address this multibillion-dollar problem. But is that all there is? Is data just to be used to target and measure better? If so, then we’ve failed as marketers.
Data holds even more potential for advancing humanity, to help individuals live longer and more meaningfully. With the help of your Internet-connected phone and its array of sensors, you can track your workout, assess the nutritional value of what you eat, get a reminder if you’re eating too much or too fast, and manage chronic health conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.
Data helps us find love (Match.com says one in six marriages begin online) and rally around causes important to us (sustainability, democracy, or raising money for a friend in need of medical treatment). It helps us create adaptive education programs so that school children don’t get left behind or remain unchallenged and bored.
Life is safer, too. GPS signals were effectively used to monitor and control the outbreak of disease following the devastating Haiti earthquake. The location of registered sex offenders is easily accessed. And the advent of predictive policing has had a real impact in reducing crime.
All this bodes well for humanity--and for marketers, that is, if data is leveraged in a broader way. Yes, smartly timed and placed marketing is vital, with billions in payoff. So do that. But let’s not forget we exist ultimately to serve and delight customers. This means leveraging data to do for, and not to, customers. It means creating more customer value than you harvest. It means rethinking the role of data.
Yes, data is an awesomely powerful tool to help marketing perform better, but isn't the real opportunity to reimagine the brand, and simultaneously help the human race live better?