Last month, a few of my colleagues and I ventured down to Austin, TX for SXSW. After attending countless sessions, eating my own weight in tacos and jalapeño-laced food, and walking a little over 30 miles in five days, I’m back in my office mulling over all that I learned. The most important lessons were about common data analysis and visualization mistakes and how to avoid them.
SXSW Interactive is more branded today than it has ever been in the past. As a marketer, I was like a kid in a candy shop last month as I wandered the streets of Austin, Texas, trying to absorb all the marketing around me. It seemed as though everything at SXSW was branded in some form or fashion, and, while much of this branding came in the form of typical guerilla marketing or free swag, there were a few brands that had stepped up their game and took their SXSW marketing to a whole new level.
Brands took over restaurants, bars and event spaces around the convention center, and some even built temporary structures for the week. The brands completely transformed these venues into immersive experiences for SXSW Interactive attendees with everything from product showcases to cocktail bars and buffets to lounges with stunning views of the Austin skyline. The brands did everything from repainting the interiors and exteriors to replacing the existing furniture and walls with their own. Most even replaced the name on the side of the building with their own logos and names. Marketers did all of this to facilitate innovative and memorable experiences for SXSWi attendees and to engage thought leaders in a live, experiential ways.
After visiting many of these, I could clearly see which were truly engaging with the attendees and creative positive associations between the consumers and the brand and which were missing the target. It all came down to whether the brand stayed true to itself and how well its execution aligned with the event. The two best examples were IBM and Samsung.
“So, what exactly are your career goals as a marketer?”
“I want to work in the creative department at a digital agency and eventually become Creative Director.”
I have heard this conversation more times that I can count. It seems like everyone from freshmen in their principles of marketing course to soon-to-be graduates on the job hunt, and even folks who have been working in the industry for years, all seem to share the dream of one day landing one of those coveted creative positions. This is likely the result of the romanticized portrayal of advertising creatives in pop culture (Mad Men, anyone?). Maybe it’s just that creative is the most visible or tangible part of an agency. Or maybe it’s just that creative has long been considered the lifeblood of an agency or that a shop’s success is determined by the quality and creativity its ads.
But that’s no longer exclusively true.
Analytics. Big data. Data visualization. These are the current buzzwords thrown around conferences and advertising blogs and rightfully so. They are the signposts of the next phase in the digital age of marketing and with the next phase comes a new champion to fight for the dreams and aspirations of the next generation of advertisers. Please welcome to the ring, The Analytics Team.
As clients start prioritizing an agency’s ability to glean valuable and actionable insights from the excessive amounts of data available, as well as their ability to put a numerical value on the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and ROI, agencies are beginning to prioritize data analysts and the analytics team. In a survey of corporate marketers, 43 percent of respondents claimed to have “unmet business needs,” specifically with “measuring and reporting the business impact and ROI of marketing and advertising programs.” Another 28 percent lacked “taking advantage of Big Data opportunities.” Both of these needs can be satisfied by a good analytics team.
In Jim Terry’s blog post about the challenges CMOs are facing in the world of Big Data, he explains that determining what to measure, how to measure it, turning information into insights and the ability to act on the insights are what CMOs currently must overcome. A solid analytics team would be more than qualified to achieve this goal.
While demand for these roles at agencies and in-house marketing teams has been steadily growing over the course of the digital age, the supply side is just beginning to catch on. And with such a deficit in qualified candidates, the role is about to get much more enticing for advertisers and marketers everywhere.
Salaries for agency employees in analyst and data scientist roles are up to 30 percent higher than other agency positions at similar levels, according to AdAge. Additionally, some universities have started to offer marketing courses and even entire marketing degrees tailored specifically to digital media, analytics, data mining and data visualization. These factors open the door wider for analytics roles at ad agencies and show the next generation of advertisers what the future looks like.
As more professionals combine analytical skills with advertising backgrounds and education, more creative agencies will be able to leverage the skill sets of these employees. Now creative campaigns have an increased chance at success. Better A/B testing, stronger analysis of performance and insight into consumer behavior are a few of the many benefits the creative team and the rest of the agency can use to improve performance and better serve the client.
As part of a relatively new facet of advertising, the future of this role is still undetermined. The only certainty? There’s a new crop of aspiring advertisers, all equipped with an excitement for report season like you’ve never seen before. And even though the job responsibilities change just about as fast as you can write a job posting, isn’t the fluidity and promise of the job never being stagnant why we all got into advertising to begin with?