# 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

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

## “Come The F@ck On!” Fury As Man Charged \$18 For Two Ice-Creams As Flake Shortage Grips UK

A British man has made the headlines after he savaged an ice-cream vendor on Facebook for slugging him £10 (\$A18.30) for two ice-creams with a Flake. Apparently the high cost of the ice confection treat is due to the current heatwave in the UK (temperatures topping 27 degrees in places) that’s led to people overwhelming […]

• Campaigns

## “Repeat, This Is Not A Joke!” Adani Releases Climate Action Corporate Video!

Adani – the Indian-based multinational that owns the highly controversial coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin – has jumped on the corporate goodwill bandwagon, releasing a climate activism video. The one-minute, 20-second video is called “#ican” and, rather than point the blame at corporates for climate inaction, it infers it’s more an individual’s responsibility. The […]

• Media
• Technology

## Facebook Joins Forces With Lifeblood To Launch New Blood Donations Feature

Facebook is has announced a partnership with Australian Red Cross Lifeblood (Lifeblood) across Australia to help top up the nation’s blood supply with much-needed new donations. Launching as part of Lifeblood’s National Blood Donor Week (14-20 June), Facebook’s new Blood Donations feature has already helped over 100 million Facebook users sign up to receive notifications […]

• Technology

## Twilio Segment Launches Journeys To Help Marketers Improve Personalisation

Twilio Segment has announced the launch of Journeys, a new product built on the Segment CDP that allows marketers to easily build sophisticated customer journeys and orchestrate personalisation at scale, through every channel, and across their entire customer experience stack. A customer journey is the entire experience a customer has while interacting with a brand, over […]

• Media

## New Zealand’s Favourite Ad Revealed

Insight agency TRA has asked 1,000 New Zealanders about their favourite ads, and the top ten ads most liked by the public are also very effective at achieving business results. According to the findings, ASB’s “Ben and Amy” has taken the number one spot, with nearly twice as many people mentioning this ASB campaign as […]

• Campaigns

## Google Pays “Undisclosed Sum” For Amateur iPhone Shot Of A Seagull Eating A Chip For Latest Campaign

An amateur photographer has landed herself a tidy little windfall after tech giant Google bought an image she snapped on her iPhone a decade ago to use in its latest ad campaign. British woman Hannah Huxford snapped a photo of a seagull eating a chip on her phone way back in 2011 when she was […]

• Opinion

## It’s Time To Refocus Customer Experience In The Era Of Risk

In this guest post, Andy Mellor, regional vice president, ANZ at Kofax, asks what does customer experience look like in this era of privacy and risk? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” If only you had a dollar for every time you heard this saying, right? When we talk about customer […]

• Media

## After 12 Months Of Lockdown, NSW Youngbloods Return With First Event Of 2021

Judging by this Youngblood industry event, adland's relationship with the booze industry appears as rock solid as ever.

• Marketing
• Media

## Influencer Exposed For Faking Business-class Flight

A French influencer has been snapped travelling in economy despite posting a photo of herself flying business class on social media. Océane El Himer, a Dubai based French model and influencer, posted a photo of herself posing in front of a business class seat on a recent flight, with the caption “Next stop: Monaco. Je […]

• Media

## “I Won’t Come To Your Workplace & Start F@cking With You!” TV Reporter Unloads On Hecklers During Live Cross

One of the many tribulations of a live TV report has to be members of the public trying to get their heads on the telly to the chagrin of the reporter and crew. Well, British telly hack Callum Watkinson was having none of it when he found himself on the end of some unwanted attention […]

• Campaigns

## A Naked Shane Jacobson Saves Water For Sydney Water

Aussie actor and media personality Shane Jacobson has joined forces with Sydney Water to launch a new water conservation campaign called Turn it off, Bob – urging us to think differently about our relationship with water. The campaign launched yesterday, and features Jacobson in character as the likeable larrikin, ‘Bob’, whose long steamy shower sparks […]

• Campaigns

## Aussie Eco-soap Company ‘Single Use Ain’t Sexy’ Makes Big Debut With Crowdfunding Campaign

Sustainable soap brand Single Use Ain’t Sexy has been greeted with a huge influx of support after raising over half a million dollars in funding via a crowdfunding campaign. The brand has launched itself into the ‘green economy’ by calling on the Australian public to financially back them and their mission to get Aussies to […]

• Marketing

## Software Giant Refuses To Pay Queer Artist For Their Work As Part Of Pride Month Campaign

Queer Artist Ryan James Caruthers has publically slammed software company Unfold after it asked to use the artist’s work for free as part of its Pride Month social media campaign. Caruthers took to Instagram to show screenshots of the conversation he had with Unfold after it asked the artist to share 12 of his images […]

• Marketing

## Aussie Shoe Brand TWOOBS Embraces Anti-Marketing In Push For More Consumer-conscious Shopping

After relaunching in September last year, TWOOBS has become a ‘kinda’ shoe brand by also focusing on making the world a ‘kinder’ place and creating more consumer-conscious shopping. The vegan shoe brand founded by sisters Jess and Stef Dadon changed its marketing approach last year and stopped using social media to push sales the old-fashioned […]

• Marketing

## Visit Sunshine Coast Hires New Head Of Marketing

Highly experienced tourism marketer Kelly Ryan has been appointed to lead the marketing efforts at Visit Sunshine Coast (VSC). During the past 12 years, Ryan has supported Canberra’s tourism industry in senior marketing roles, including as director of strategy and insights as well as director of marketing at VisitCanberra. Most recently, Ryan has been working […]

• Media

## “You’re All Creeps!” Hunky Channel Seven TV Reporter Inundated With Female Admirers (But Are The Comments Kosher?)

This poses the serious question: should only attractive people appear on TV? And it's an unequivocal 'yes' from B&T.

• Campaigns

## GHO Sydney And Family Planning NSW Launch ‘Planet Puberty’ Platform

GHO Sydney has developed a new educational platform for Family Planning NSW to help parents and carers of children with disabilities navigate the changes to their bodies, emotions and social interactions. The project, ‘Planet Puberty’, was made possible through funding from the federal government’s Department of Social Services, and was co-designed with people with disability […]

• Marketing

## Nike Misspells Own Name In Embarrassing Sneaker Mix-up

Nike's just one of those brands that never seems to put a foot wrong. So this cock-up's a wonderfully refreshing change.

• Media

## Kyle Sandilands Reveals He Turned Down \$1.4 Million To Appear On 10’s ‘I’m A Celeb…’

To be on 'I'm a Celeb...', it seems you only need to know, have slept with or lived on the same street as a celebrity.

• Media

## Hinge And Uber Combine To Help Connect Single Dog Owners

Apparently a dog is one of the best things to add to your dating profile. Well, apart from a mansion and a Ferrari.

• Marketing
• Media

## REMINDER: Entry Deadline For Women In Media Awards Is Fast-Approaching!

Female? Work in media & advertising? Is your work often considered "the boss" or "the bee's knees"? Enter here & pronto.

• Marketing

## Visa Announces Natalie Lockwood As New APAC Marketing VP

Do you own four maxed-out Visa cards? You could blame Natalie Lockwood or you could blame internet shopping & Uber Eats.

• Media

## Liberal Politician Threatens To Sue The Chaser

It appears you can be sued for making jokes about politicians. Hence why B&T has refrained from making any jokes here.

• Campaigns

## Sydney Swans Raise Bowel Cancer Awareness Alongside The Jodi Lee Foundation

Nothing says "bowel health" like a diet of fresh fruit & veggies. Sadly, however, that doesn't include lychee daiquiris.

• Campaigns

## Ampol Launches Fundraising Campaign With The Smith Family

Great to see a petrochemical company with a good heart. Helps distract from all that "global warming" press, doesn't it?

• Marketing

## Fashion Brands P.E Nation And Camilla Called Out After Wheelchair Runway Fail

It wouldn't be a Fashion Week without controversy. This time, however, it's nothing to do with everybody not eating.

• Media

## Kleenex Exhibits Care In ‘Real Softies’ Via electriclimefilms And R/GA

Once again, toilet paper is hogging the headlines. And if COVID's given us anything marvellous, it's given us that.

• Campaigns

## BWS Brings Convenience To Aussies Via M&C Saatchi Sydney & Dentsu

Here's some terrific new work for BWS. Still, let's be honest, even if it was godawful we'd still shop there regardless.

• Media

## Thursday TV Wrap: Seven Romps Home On The Back Of The AFL

It was all Origin on Wednesday, but it was all AFL last night. That said, Origin had The Veronicas & better fireworks.

• Media

## JCDecaux Announces New Partnership With Bush Heritage Australia

JCDecaux today announced conservation organisation, Bush Heritage Australia, as its major charity partner for 2021. The partnership is part of a series of ‘social impact’ initiatives the business is launching this year, under the banner of JCDecauxHEART. JCDecauxHEART focuses on three areas of social impact: health and mental health, environmental sustainability, and enriching urban communities. […]