Mad Men, Data Men, Middle Men
I consider myself lucky to have grown a career in a dynamic, continuously evolving industry that is both fun and rewarding. Yes, I’m talking about the marketing communications sector. I won’t say the advertising sector; most of the revenue from holding companies within that sector is not generated from advertising. Instead, it is generated from a wider portfolio of marketing communications revenue streams.
I’m certainly not going to knock an industry that not only has treated me well but also one that I encourage others to embrace and enter. Especially as I believe there has never been more of exciting time to create real, impactful change. However, I won’t hide my frustrations either. I see an industry that I’m passionate about stumbling, losing its way and failing to embrace opportunities. The back and forth noise about Mad Men to Data Men and the overly inflated complexities of client arrangements – which is often a strategy in itself –has manufactured multiple layers of confusion.
Let’s start with Mad Men to Data Men. Data is vital, and key to making more informed choices. It enables us to react swiftly to evolving micro, macro and planned moments. But do not be fooled: we must recognize where the valuable data sits, and we must acknowledge the widening gaps if we’re going to be effective in shifting the needle.
The gap in sales data behind the transaction of products and services tends to sit firmly on the client-side behind client firewalls. It is rarely shared to any great degree with third party partners – especially marketing communications companies –since clients have an element of mistrust when it comes to their agency partners. This gaps widens further as traditional agencies are painfully slow to embrace e-commerce, and the intersection between brand and e- commerce.
What does this really mean? For me, it’s simple: Data Men on the agency side do not meaningfully exist. When you couple this with the continuous growth of clients’ abilities to use their own data points more effectively to become more impactful, the traditional agency’s elongated relationships move into Middle Men territory- not a healthy place to be.
How can we pick ourselves up from the stumble and more swiftly shift the needle? In an industry summit this month, experts plan to highlight the emergence of CGI/AR/VR content coupled with narrow machine learning (AI). This summit is geared toward focusing on the benefits brought by clients’ sales data coupled with leveraging marketing technology to make a dramatic point of difference. “Adapt or die” is what Dan Ram, a recent Ted Talk speaker, recommended to a group of industry leaders. What will it take for us to adapt from working as Mad Men and as Middle Men to efficient Data Men? Data is powerful, it can predict the future and human error is officially out of style. However, we have the power to mold this future to our liking. Is there a happy medium?