Much has been said about the changing agency model of late, and Carat is one that has introduced a swathe of new competencies to help gear it for future success. Here, B&T chats with the agency’s chief data and experience officer, Brendon Cropper, about how he’s finding the newly created role, and where he sees data fitting into the advertising and marketing landscape down the track.
You’re now more than six months into your new role at Carat (which is a new role in itself). How are you finding it?
I think whenever you join a business, you naturally go through a honeymoon period followed closely by your new reality. The great news is I’m loving the reality.
The key ingredient in every business is people; from day one I’ve had a great connection with the Carat team at every level. While I’m based out Sydney, an aspect I enjoy of a national role is spending time in each of our other markets, meeting our clients around the country. We’ve got a great national network with hyper-passionate teams in each office, so getting to know them and understanding the nuances of each has also been fun.
What does a typical day look like for you as the agency’s chief data and experience officer?
There are no real ‘typical days’ as yet; this is a new role and discipline for Carat, so it’s an exciting time. What I’m working on can be incredibly varied day to day.
A better way for me to answer this question might be to tell you what am I thinking about most days. Most of the time, it’s the challenges facing our clients and the role data can play in solving those.
What our clients want from us is increasingly moving beyond media alone, toward broader business strategy; their approach to data is absolutely intrinsic to that. My role is not just about helping clients leverage the data they have and connecting them with the data they need; it’s about crafting an overarching data strategy that sets them up for long-term growth.
Moving forward, a brand’s data strategy will either be their competitive advantage or their competitor’s opportunity; I’m here to ensure it’s the former.
Carat created your role to better understand and organise client data and bring a consultative level of thinking to the agency. How have you fulfilled these responsibilities so far?
Carat has incredible capabilities at its disposal within the Dentsu Aegis Network when it comes to data – where I come in is ensuring that we’re looking at everything through the lens of a deep understanding of a client’s objectives.
From a data perspective, just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should – it can be an exercise in restraint at times, and that’s where the advisory aspect of my role comes in. I sit down with every client first to understand their data journey before we do anything. Transparency is key to developing trust – the critical ingredient of every successful partnership.
An example of that approach in action is Carat’s Data Consciousness Project, a bespoke study we recently completed into the relationship between Australian consumers and their data, specifically their willingness to share it, with whom, and what they expect in return. The outcome, which we’re currently taking to our clients, was a specific formula for creating a positive data exchange – one that ensures long term, sustainable, mutually beneficial data relationships with their consumers.
We now know consumers are more aware than ever before of the value of their data and the dangers its misuse represents. Trust in a brand’s data strategy has never been more important, or more tenuous. Our focus is on equipping our people and clients with the knowledge and insight to collect, store and utilise data in a way that benefits not only them, but their consumers. After all, while data is seemingly infinite, the trust required to get it most certainly is not.
How real is the threat of consulting groups to media agencies?
It’s certainly a challenge to be aware of. Both sides have their challenges and opportunities, but we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe there was going to be a valuable role for agencies to play in the success of our clients well into the future.
One of the issues that seems to constantly be brought up in the industry is that marketers are struggling to process and manage the sheer amount of data they collate. Does Carat battle this problem too, and if so, how?
That challenge was one of the main drivers behind the introduction of my role – to help clients navigate what can at times feel like the overwhelming scale of the ‘dataverse’. It is also one of the greatest strengths of working within an operating model like Dentsu Aegis Network – access to a breadth of expertise and platforms designed to do just that. We love working with big sets of data, processing over two terabytes every day.
How do you see the role of data evolving in the advertising and marketing landscape over the next five years?
We’re still in such early days when it comes to our data capabilities as an industry. While I think everyone (myself included) has been a little addicted to bad proxy data since the internet arrived, the next stage is a clear shift into people-based marketing – real data on real people.
The emphasis on mutual benefit in the data exchange will also only become more pronounced. Consumers expect sophistication and security to be the guiding principles behind any data strategy, so it will be on us to keep working with clients to deliver that.