# Big Data: Golden Insights Or Junk Science?

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

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!

• Media

## TV Ratings (18/04/2024): I’m A Celebrity Wins Prime Time And Key Demos

Aussie viewers can be a harsh lot at times. Only days after Ellie Cole bled her heart out, she has been sent packing.

• Marketing

## Effie&co Launches New ConnectAsia Division To Help Aussie Brands Market To Asian Consumers Overseas & At Home

Not provided is advice on using chopsticks and not spilling ramen down your shirt.

• Marketing

## Cashrewards Sets Out Stall For New CMO

Thinking of applying for the Cashrewards CMO gig? Here are some insider tips that, yes, are tantamount to cheating.

• Media

## ‘I Ask For The TV Industry To Stand Up And Defend Itself’ – Seven Boss James Warburton Steps Down

The Seven supremo heads for the exits after five years. Here's hoping the Spotlight team organised the farewell bash.

• Media

## Poh! Jamie! Adriano! Paramount ANZ reveals its tasty plans for this year’s MasterChef

It's your fan's guide to this year's MasterChef! Although no tips on how to pronounce crudités or use a un fait-tout.

## Dentsu’s iProspect Partners With MOOD Tea Ahead Of May Campaign Launch

We love a Mood Tea here at B&T. Although we do store old screws and nails in the International Roast caterer's tin.

• Opinion

## Opinion: When Culture Starts Eating Itself: Navigating The Age Of Self-eating Nostalgia

Born boss David Coupland asks is adland going through a nostalgia period? But please, no repeats of Best Of Red Faces.

Opinion
• B&T Exclusive

## Who’s Going To Cannes?! The TikTok Young Lions Winners!

It's Aussie adland's next gen! They're off to Cannes with high hopes of bringing back a Lion & a foot-long Toblerone.

• Technology

## Adobe Launches Express Mobile App With Firefly AI

Want to be the coolest kid at Friday staff drinks but forgot your retro Nikes? This new Adobe wizardry may do the trick.

• Media

## ThinkNewsBrands & IMAA Extend News Publishing Education In Brisbane

Industry duo takes its publishing roadshow to Brisbane. Was disappointed no male attendees were wearing walk socks.

• B&T TV

## B&T Chats With Wavemaker’s Provocative Pioneers On Their Cross-Pacific Sojourn

B&T TV heads to Wavemaker's Sydney digs to interview two staffers from its New York & LA digs. If that makes sense?

• Campaigns

## HoMie & Champion Launch “Give One. Get One” Campaign Supporting Youth Homelessness Via Town Square

Much like the fête's prized chutney wears a blue winners sash, so too should this top initiative from HoMie & Champion.

• Campaigns

## Thinkerbell Takes Us Back To Summer In Latest Work For XXXX

This beer ad wants to take you back to summer! Just minus any chance of a shark attack on your morning bus commute.

## Cannes Lions Unveils 2024 Programme Featuring Queen Latifah, Jay Shetty & P&G’s Mark Pritchard

Are you one of the lucky ducks heading to Cannes in June? Check out the headliner acts you'll be queueing hours to see.

## Scroll Media Recruits Costa Panagos From Twitch

Costa Panagos set to bring South American flair to the Scroll offices. Assuming that he is, indeed, South American.

• Technology

## Year13, Microsoft & KPMG Australia Launch AI Course For Gen Zs

Born around the 2000s? Need to amp up your AI creds? This guide's for you (although it's not really that age specific).

## General Motors Snares Heath Walker From Scania

Do you rage about oversized American cars on our roads? You need to bail up Heath Walker at parties & industry events.

• Marketing

## VML Launches New “Envoyage” Brand For Flight Centre

VML unveils new brand for travel operator Flight Centre. Alas, no sign of those paid actors pretending to be pilots.

• Media

## Subaru Places Media Account Up For Review

Subaru puts media up for review, as adland journos get set for mandatory "agency drives off with..." headline.

• TV Ratings

## TV Ratings (17/04/2024): Contestants Faced With Harsh Realities As Alone Australia Heats Up (Or Cools Down)

Alone still doing the business for SBS. Overly long train journeys not doing the business, but they persist anyway.

• Media

## Ben Fordham Loses Number One Spot As Ray Hadley Celebrates 156th Ratings Win

The radio numbers are in! Discover who's off for a boozy lunch today & who's waiting for the dreaded HR death knock.

• Campaigns

## Gourmet Ice Cream Brand Connoisseur Launches New “Thrill Your Senses” Iteration, Via SICKDOGWOLFMAN

Rattling the old "truth in advertising" adage comes this ice-cream spot full of noticeably thin people.

• Media

## Paramount’s Global Sales Boss: ‘Australia’s Converged Model Is A Blueprint For How I’d Like All Of Our Markets To Be’

Paramount's global sales boss gives local sales ops the thumbs up. Didn't weigh-in on the Lisa Wilkinson debacle.

• Technology

## TikTok Starts Testing Its Instagram Rival In Australia

In exciting news for piano playing cats & brattish pranks in shopping centres, TikTok unveils its Insta rival plans.

• Media

## Man Wrongly Named By Seven As Bondi Killer Hires Lawyers

Struggling to save for a house deposit? Why not get wrongly identified by Sunrise!

## Smartsheet Appoints Indie Agency Sandbox Media To Its Media Account

Can't stand your colleagues? Like to dob them in when they miss a deadline? These work management platforms are ideal.

• B&T Exclusive

## Boss Not Letting You Come To Cannes In Cairns? Use This Business Case To Convince Them!

Stingy boss won't spring for a ticket to Cairns? Add this to your persuasive argument repertoire. Or grovel.

## Alt/shift/ Brisbane Builds Portfolio With Ausbuild Creative, PR, Content & Social Account Win

The Brisbane comms/PR agency lands constructor Ausbuild. Also hoping for a discount on its new glass conservatory.

• B&T Exclusive

## Young Guns Versus The Old Guard: Who Adds More Value to Our Industry?

Cannes In Cairns poking this hornet's nest in a lively debate. Just so long as the oldies can get up the stairs.

• Campaigns

## 70% Of Aussies Don’t Have Green Power Plans ENGIE Says In Major Brand Campaign Via HERO

Are you the notorious "light leaver on-er" in your flatshare? Quell any infighting with this green energy news.

• Marketing

## PrettyGood Launches Offering Brand & Media Solutions For Australasian SMEs

B&T applauds the charitable nature of this new agency. Although we'd hate to see it impact any Chrissie present sends.

• Marketing

## A Blunt End: Dolphins Medicinal Cannabis Sponsorship At Risk

Yes, it's another NRL drug story. Yet, thankfully it doesn't involve coke in Kuta during the off-season.

## Slew Of New Creative Hires At Leo Burnett Australia

Ahhh, all black! The outfit of choice for agency creatives, David Jones staff and everyone in Melbourne.

• Campaigns

## Under Armour Unveils Local “Live in UA” Campaign

American apparel brand set for yet another tilt at the Aussie market, as Nike declares "we'll see about that".

• Campaigns

## Pepsi Launches New Look, Refreshing Classic Fashion Staples Via Special PR

Are you always the bridesmaid, never the bride, as the old saying goes? How do you think Pepsi feels?

• Campaigns

## Pure Blonde Returns To A Place Purer Than Yours In New Campaign Via The Monkeys

B&T's always been a huge fan of the 'drink yourself thinner' diet plan. So big thanks to Pure blonde, vodka & tequila.