In his latest column (dare we say outburst?), B&T’s regular columnist and contrarian, Robert Stohfeldt, says we live in a world of data but few in adland can even scratch the surface. However, he has an ominous warning of Amazon’s pending arrival and its huge (see: we don’t need ad agencies) data in-house capabilities…
Much has been said about Amazon and its impact on not just retail, but business in general. In all the hype, one key point has been overlooked. Yes, they are believers in the power of data, but they have recognised that data scientists won’t be part of the plan.
There is a huge rush to courses teaching data science, but these courses are to genuine data analysis what a first aid course is to a medical degree.
Amazon is employing economists and human behaviourists with PhDs. Why? Science has been using “data” for hundreds of years. But you will not find a “data scientist” in the world of science. Instead you will find scientists, as in zoologists, geologists, chemists, physicists etc. and working alongside them are mathematicians. (Even Einstein, who had a pretty good understanding of maths, needed to work with pure mathematicians.)
A mathematician does not need to understand consumer behaviour. They work in a team with an expert in this area.
Statistics is applied mathematics – in particular, calculus and linear algebra. For all those people rushing to data science courses, you are really learning to be a glorified data entry operator.
Unless you did advanced maths at high school and continued with pure and statistical mathematics at university, you are just scratching the surface. Learning enough to be dangerous. Statistics is not statistical mathematics. A question for the “data scientists” out there. How do you explain i? (The square root of minus one) and complex numbers or eigenvalues. They didn’t teach you that in your data science course? How about a tangent to an affine plane? Basic calculus will teach you about the importance of the tangent line in differentiation. But that is only two dimensional. You will be dealing with multiple variables, hence the need for matrixes and finding a tangent to a plane of numerous dimensions. If all of this sounds like gobbledygook, then move onto something you understand and leave data well alone.
And off the shelf algorithms won’t be the answer. Every situation is different. You will need to be able to work out the Probability Density Function (PDF) from scratch, not just make an assumption the data fits a pre-determined computer model. Then you will need a computer programmer, not just some coding cowboy, who can write the programme for the raw data to be fed into.
Mathematicians don’t understand human behaviour. Nor do they need to. They work in a team with people who understand human behaviour – one does the maths, the other interprets the results.
Our industry has been suckered by the Google, Facebook duopoly because fooling the media agencies with numbers is like the old “taking candy from a baby”. I have sat through any number of presentations by the big media shops as they show off their proprietary analytical tools, which to be diplomatic, are total garbage that could be pulled apart by a 1st year university maths student.
We now have the media dominated by this duopoly who have used media agencies as an entrée to clients. They will be (already are) cutting you out of the relationship. No one needs a middleman these days.
I have yet to meet one person in media who has studied mathematics at university. (There may be one or two out there and if they are, they will understand what I am getting at).
Amazon won’t need ad agencies. They will do all their work in-house. They may engage specialist consultants on occasions, but these people will not be from the advertising industry.
Predicting the future has always inexact. It is fair to look at the past to predict the future, but in so many instances, something pops up out of left field (something no one could have predicted, such as 9/11) which changes everything.
Advertising has become obsessed with technology and in many ways, that is fair, as we live in a world not only dominated by technology, but one in which the speed of progress keeps accelerating. How do we future proof ourselves?
Probably the most important thing I learned from a mathematics degree is that creativity cannot be formularised. Yes, there are people spending huge amounts of time and money trying to get AI to act creatively. Even the term Artificial Intelligence is misleading. People interpret it literally. Somewhere along the line we went from calling them computers to AI, resulting in the perception they think. Well they do not. Machine learning has come a long way, but a computer (AI) can only solve a problem is it programmed to do so. If a person cannot work out how to solve a problem, there is not a computer in the world that can it do for them.
Creative thought is something AI cannot do and the day they are able to, well it will probably mark the end of civilisation. Making a machine that is smarter than us and knows we are a threat to it is not a very smart evolutionary move. (Though many neurologists argue this day will never come due to the basic differences in the working of a human brain and even the most powerful computers.).
Stick to jobs that require creative thinking, as opposed to the repetitive and formularised and you will always be needed. The move to data scientists and letting the foxes into the hen house (Google & Facebook) is edging advertising closer and closer to extinction.
Hopefully you won’t have to explain to your grandchildren what an advertising agency was.
In this guest post, CTO of Wiise, Hamish Browne (pictured below), says tech’s new focus on privacy will lead to new rules and new ways of doing business for marketers… With the delicate balance between customer data and privacy in the spotlight like never before, the potential emergence of new standards and business models, is […]
Businesswoman, reality TV star, and social media personality Kim Kardashian has posted an ad for mysterious cryptocurrency Ethereum MAX [EMAX]. In a post on her Instagram story – where she has 228 million followers – Kardashian wrote: “Are you guys into crypto????” “This is not financial advice but sharing what my friends just told me […]
Great Southern Bank has launched a brand campaign this week, ‘Happily Clever After’, coinciding with its name change from Credit Union Australia, bringing to life its purpose of helping all Australians own their own home. The journey to changing from Credit Union to Great Southern Bank began back in 2020. When Australia’s largest customer-owned bank, […]
Nine has promoted Jo Clasby to the role of commercial director – publishing, where she will report to Nick Young. She was previously director of client partnerships – publishing. Her new role establishes her at the same level of seniority as Anthony Smyth, commercial director – radio. Smyth was promoted at the start of this […]
Hospitality giant Accor is shining a light on the joy of cities through its newest campaign, ‘Go ALL Out’, which launches in Australia and New Zealand today. The gateway to the ‘Go ALL Out’ campaign is ALL – Accor Live Limitless, a lifestyle loyalty program that integrates rewards, services and experiences throughout the Accor portfolio […]
Global affiliate and partner marketing firm Silverbean has secured new contracts with 13 major Australian brands and is now working to double the size of its Asia-Pacific team. Silverbean launched in Australia in 2019 and has seen steady growth through its work with retailers. Now, with 15 new brands joining the Silverbean portfolio, the agency […]
Tourism PR and marketing agency GTI has announced the appointment of longtime media executive Jenny Pham as its new general manager of marketing and strategy. Pham (pictured above) will lead the agency’s marketing division with responsibility for strategy, media and consumer marketing, while GTI founder and managing director Sarah Anderson remains as the day-to-day lead […]
Clipboard, a free professional networking platform for the hospitality industry, has announced it will seek to raise its next round of funding via equity crowdfunding platform Birchal. This will power its vision to transform the way the fragmented hospitality industry connects, shares experiences, markets and recruits. With a growing member database of over 24,000 hospitality […]