Big Data: Golden Insights Or Junk Science?

Big Data: Golden Insights Or Junk Science?
SHARE
THIS



B&T’s foremost columnist, Robert Strothfeldt from Strothfeldt Consulting, is back again with his latest piece. This time he takes a look at big data in agency land. And, he argues, it’s not about the data but how you use it…

With the rapid growth in the volume and importance of data in marketing and advertising/communications, there needs to be a basic understanding of how to handle data and the ability to differentiate between quality and junk science.  To get down and dirty and work the numbers requires more than just “statistics” that most study in business, marketing or a social science degree. As argued in a previous article, a solid background in pure mathematics is required.  But to interpret the results does not require an in-depth understanding of the laws of mathematics. Just the ability to ask questions when something “doesn’t make sense” based on common sense and experience.  But most people are “scared” of maths. Their eyes roll up in their heads when shown a table of numbers and all thinking shuts down.

A friend and colleague (Professor Stephen Holden) wrote a great article about statistics and intuition. (Much of which comes from common sense and experience) You don’t need to be a statistician. Common sense and experience will, on most occasions, tell a person if the numbers and the stats being used are rubbish or not.

This point was driven home to me sitting in a presentation by one of Australia’s largest media buying and planning companies. They claimed to have a proprietary algorithm which predicted brand awareness. It was junk science, yet all 14 people in the room believed it without question. It didn’t require even junior high school maths to know it was junk. There was ample common sense and experience in the room to see it was flawed, but the thinking was – “It’s a computer algorithm on statistics, so it must be right.”

Many years ago, one of my pure maths lecturers showed me how to “prove” 2=1
Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 9.15.36 am

Obviously 2 does not equal 1. There is only one “error” in this equation. Can you identify what it is?

To make it interesting a choice of bottle of the latest vintage Penfolds St Henri or Bollinger (non-vintage, it’s not that hard) to the first correct answer. Please advise where to send the bottle to B&T…

The purpose of this exercise? Well, by making just one simple mistake, we end up with a ludicrous result. In this instance, this is obvious, but what of the many times when the answer is not so obviously wrong? How many times has junk science led to bad decisions?

We hear of many “case studies” resulting in great success. Is this like the gambler who tells you only about the wins? Or maybe the success was due to other contributing factors, not just specific “big data” learnings and resulting initiatives?

As a creative director, my interest in the use of data and maths is mainly with advertising/communications.

A recent article on the waning effectiveness of advertising used numbers to support the hypothesis. A company (won’t name, but benefit from clients believing advertising in general is rapidly becoming less effective) published, in their monthly blog/newsletter, survey results by Deloitte. The results showed that in 2013, some 70 per cent of respondents stated they were alerted to retail events by advertising. By 2015, this figure had dropped to 30 per cent . When information is published by Deloitte, KPMG, PwC etc. we can safely assume the methodology is beyond reproach.

It is also another example of the threat advisory and management consulting firms pose to advertising agencies. They are already in there presenting to the CEO and board on advertising strategy and effectiveness. How long before they take the next step and offer a content/creative service? (Yep, creatives in Zegna suits).

But what about the interpretation? How did the missing 40 per cent hear about the retail offers or events? Other studies by retailers in the US (Macey’s was one) showed customers were using smart phones to either photograph in-store product specials or just send a message to advise others about retail offers and events they had been altered to through various forms of advertising. When questioned “How did you hear about this sale/product/etc.?” advertising was not credited, even though it was the start of the tail.

In marketing and advertising, as opposed to pure scientific research, there is nearly always a vested or conflict of interest involved. The research and articles will have a spin which favours the type of service the author provides.  In this instance the spin was “advertising is no longer effective, but we have the answer.”

Advertising, or communications, has and always should be about using science to provide insights for the brief.  The art should then take over, using these valuable insights to create a message that is relevant and impactful to the right people at the right time.

But now, with more and more data at our disposal, the trend is towards designing creative/messages by formula.

The purpose of this article is not to get bogged down in boring (some may say irrelevant) research methodology. The point I am trying to make is that with so much data and information now available on just about everything consumers do, eat, watch and drink etc. the tendency is to try to quantify the qualitative, to take creativity out of the process. We are trending to “creative by formula”.

I had the pleasure and privilege of being in an ad agency partnership with Grahame Bond, the creator of the legendary “Aunty Jack” series on the ABC.  (Younger readers may not have heard of the series. Google it or ask your parents).

Many times Graham has said to me that Aunty Jack would never be made today – breaking new ground and so many “rules”, the numbers crunches would have killed it. The arbiters of what to and what not to run only use numbers, rather than look at them in conjunction with finely honed experience and “gut feel” to make decisions. (Steve Jobs said many times you cannot ask people to rate the appeal of something they have had not seen before).

Advertising could be surmised as “Where Science Meets Art”. But we are evolving to the point where “Science Dictates Art”. (Too much science and not enough art)

Good science (as opposed to junk science) is an integral component of the creative process.  It provides the insights for the creative process to act upon. As the old saying goes, research (and big data falls under this category) is like a lamp post. It is there to cast light, to illuminate, not to lean on.

Lies, dam lies and statistics. It all depends on how you use it!

Latest News

Diversity Case Study Series: OMD
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Diversity Case Study Series: OMD

One need only look at the Cadbury Favourites chocolate selection to know it has nought to do with industry diversity.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ten Brings Ellen DeGeneres’ Game Show Down Under To Replace Family Feud
  • Media

Ten Brings Ellen DeGeneres’ Game Show Down Under To Replace Family Feud

Network Ten has announced it has commissioned a new family entertainment series which will premiere on Ten and the WIN Network later this year. Game of Games is based on the US show of the same name, which only launched in January this year. The US show is produced by Warner Horizon Unscripted & Alternative […]

m2m Drives Away With $51m Hyundai Media Account
  • Media

m2m Drives Away With $51m Hyundai Media Account

Media agency m2m has been awarded the Hyundai media planning and buying account. The agency, under Omnicom Media group, was up against incumbent Initiative and Havas, with Hyundai’s Innocean Australia handling the pitch process. Speaking to B&T, a Hyundai spokesperson said, “We’d like to thank Initiative for their sterling service over the last 10 years – […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Adland Execs To Be Locked Up
  • Media

Adland Execs To Be Locked Up

Continuing adland's fascination with prison when it comes to charitable causes comes this latest trip to the slammer.

Australian Directors’ Guild Announces Mentorship Winners
  • Campaigns
  • Media

Australian Directors’ Guild Announces Mentorship Winners

Now in its second year, the Australian Directors’ Guild’s (ADG) Commercial & Content Directing Mentorship program announced its next round of eight mentoree recipients. The winners were announced at a special event held last night at FINCH, Sydney and attended by members of the screen and advertising industries. Acclaimed director, and ADG President, Samantha Lang, […]

Eyeota Deep Dives Into Australian Automotive Purchase Behaviour
  • Media

Eyeota Deep Dives Into Australian Automotive Purchase Behaviour

Eyeota, the global leader in audience data, has today released its latest results on automotive purchase intentions in Australia. The results provide a deep dive into what motivates the buyer and segments those into six different personas.

APN Outdoor Joins The AANA
  • Marketing
  • Media

APN Outdoor Joins The AANA

AANA's annual Christmas dinner and dance got a teensy bit more crowded following this announcement this morning.

QMS Introduces ‘The Lonsdale’ To Melbourne
  • Advertising
  • Media

QMS Introduces ‘The Lonsdale’ To Melbourne

Digital outdoor media company QMS Media has turned on a new premium landmark digital billboard situated in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Delivering a commanding presence at the major intersection of Lonsdale and Russell Streets, ‘The Lonsdale’ offers extended dwell times to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic, impacting more than 2.2 million contacts per month. […]

Portrait of a woman looking through out the blinds. Office worker looking through window blinds
  • Opinion

The Lurking Brand Threats Facing CMOs

Treading on gardening rakes and possible alien abduction notable omissions from this CMO threats piece.

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Women In Media Profile: Susannah George
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Susannah George

B&T is delighted to profile Urbanlist supremo Susannah George who, we understand, is not related to George Brandis.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Ikon Lands Avis Budget Group Account
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

Ikon Lands Avis Budget Group Account

B&T chooses and recommends Avis and John Karandonis shoes. Hang on, that was the end of Sale Of The Century.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Principals Appoints New Creative Director For Melbourne
  • Marketing

Principals Appoints New Creative Director For Melbourne

Branding design agency Principals has announced the appointment of Pip Ireland as its Melbourne creative director. Ireland, who has been freelancing with the agency for the past six months, has previously held roles at Designworks in New Zealand and Melbourne as well as Moon Communications in Sydney. Principals executive creative director Simon Wright said: “We’ve […]

Pureprofile Unveils Next-Level Audience Segmentation Offering With RDA Research
  • Media
  • Technology

Pureprofile Unveils Next-Level Audience Segmentation Offering With RDA Research

Global media and technology company Pureprofile has partnered with RDA Research to enable further audience segmentation across its audience profiles. RDA Research’s geoTribes is a unique classification system that rivals traditional geodemographic approaches by grouping consumers into fifteen ‘tribes’ based on their life stage and socio-economic status. Clients are then able to better understand consumer […]

WPP AUNZ Launches ‘The Bond & Associates’
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media

WPP AUNZ Launches ‘The Bond & Associates’

Advertising conglomerate WPP AUNZ has launched an innovative new stakeholder and community engagement practice called The Bond & Associates. Led by newly-appointed national director and former Newgate Australia adviser Gail Morgan (pictured above), The Bond & Associates will provide a complete solution for both government and private sector clients involved in complex public projects and […]

MYOB Partners With Network Ten’s Shark Tank
  • Marketing
  • Media

MYOB Partners With Network Ten’s Shark Tank

Accounting software provider MYOB has announced it has signed as a major sponsor of Shark Tank on Network Ten, which returns to screens tonight. In its fourth season, Shark Tank continues its format of having budding business owners and entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to the ‘sharks’, who have invested $21 million of their own money […]

Aussies Back ABC Over Budget Cuts
  • Media

Aussies Back ABC Over Budget Cuts

A new poll has found a resounding 70% of Aussies oppose cuts to the ABC despite only 7% actually bothering to watch.

Meerkats Test-Drive Dream Safari Holiday In New Comparethemarket.com.au TVC
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns

Meerkats Test-Drive Dream Safari Holiday In New Comparethemarket.com.au TVC

Leading comparison service comparethemarket.com.au has launched its latest TVC nationwide to announce its dream Safari holiday competition. The TVC – ‘Safari’ – which sees the meerkats back in their ancestral home ‘selflessly’ test-driving the amazing Safari trip that is up for grabs for one lucky winner. Narrowly avoiding an elephant trampling their picnic, an inquisitive […]

Women In Media Profile: Lauren Nicole
  • Media

Women In Media Profile: Lauren Nicole

We'd like to say B&T provides a delightful high tea for all Women In Media interviewees, but it'd be a scandalous lie.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine