As a championer of data-driven strategy, James Collier explains how brands and marketers can benefit from blending brand and communication with data and marketing sciences to grow
M&C Saatchi AUNZ’s newly appointed chief data officer, James Collier is the data-driven expert who will be leading the agency’s long-term growth strategy using a carefully applied marketing sciences practice. With a keen interest in the development of programs to understand the impact of marketing on an audience – as opposed to the delivery of it, James will be harnessing all of his experience in his new marketing sciences program for M&C Saatchi AUNZ.
The three-step plan involves educating employees on how data and research can impact their day-to-day work, putting relevant and valuable data in the hands of as many people as possible and building a product to ensure that leads to growth.
To hear more about this and James’ passion for data, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with him.
LBB> What interesting data stories have come out of Australia in the past year?
James> One of the biggest data stories to hit Australia in the last 12 months was the Government's announcement it intends to pursue Privacy Reform. Like many other countries, Australia has recognised that existing privacy regulation has failed to keep pace with the rapid globalisation and digitisation of industry and with it their citizens' data. Privacy reform is the answer and quite rightly so, yet the uncertainty around exactly how the government will modernise the Privacy Act is keeping the entire business community on their toes.
Couple that uncertainty with Chrome's fast approaching deprecation of 3P cookies and the widely supported view that 1P data is the answer and you have quite the axiom for anxiety!
LBB> How about globally, has anything caught your eye in the data field?
James> Something that I'm really interested to see develop is ISBA's Cross Media Measurement Program called Origin. I have quite the obsession with marketing measurement. Firstly because of its importance to all involved in the marketing industry, but secondly because the problem is so darn difficult to solve.
You've got this wonderful tension between what you know to be true and what you don't. What you know to be true is what, where, when and how. What marketing message went to market, where it went to market, when it went to market and how it was delivered to market. We know this because we have well established media delivery data.
What we don't know (at scale) is if the ad was actually effective in communicating the message that was intended. For example, did the audience see the ad (they could be making a cup of tea when it was aired) and if they did were they paying attention. What tends to happen in marketing measurement is the models focus on what we know to be true, which is the delivery data and not what actually matters, which is marketing’s impact on the audience. Put another way, we end up measuring what we say, not what's heard.
LBB> Where did your own interest in data come from?
James> My love affair with data can probably be traced back to my deep seated curiosity to understand what's happening and why and an addiction to puzzles and patterns!
A weird combination but one that really found a home in advertising, where the wonderfully random behaviour of a consumer and the often rigid structures of business collide on a daily basis. Making sense of one to better the other, has been a puzzle I've loved trying to solve over the last 20 years.
It's also not lost on me that those 20 years have been very good to me. I've been fortunate that my career has crossed the third and fourth industrial revolutions. It's created a huge amount of change and opportunity, and for someone with an oversized sense of curiosity, an addiction to puzzles and a love of data, it's been brilliant!
LBB> What does your role as chief data officer at M&C Saatchi AUNZ involve?
James> We believe marketing has changed and with it the expectations placed on the marketing function. Today, marketers need to be modern day miracle workers, blending the art of brand and communication with the latest advances in data and marketing science. I'm here to support the unique union of art and science, or more accurately, creativity & quantification. Practically that means helping our clients quantify the opportunity for and impact of marketing on the brands bottom line and the customer.
LBB> What plans do you have to build a marketing sciences practice to support the business’ long-term growth strategy?
James> Marketing science will sit at the heart of M&C Saatchi operating model and will help quantify and magnify the impact of the group's brilliant creative work. To do that successfully we need to do three things.
Firstly, we need to increase our level of data fluency. That means a group wide learning and development program that will help every M&C Saatchi employee better understand the role data and research can play in their day to day.
Secondly, we need to put relevant and valuable data in the hands of as many people as possible. I call this the M&C Saatchi Data Layer as it will be woven through the entire group and every group agency.
Finally, we need to build Product. We have a clearly articulated roadmap and are making exciting progress.
Together, these three programs will not only build a successful marketing sciences practice, but will create a group where data is embraced.
LBB> How will you be ensuring that the three programs are implemented across the agency?
James> In one sense I'm lucky as our group CEO, Justin Graham and I share the same vision for marketing science at M&C Saatchi. In another, I'm lucky that every agency CEO sees just as much potential within their own business. Its meant there has been a huge amount of support and a real hunger to see progress. When you have that much leadership buy-in the implementation is easy.
LBB> In your opinion, how can creativity and data/technology work together?
James> That is exactly the question we're looking to solve and a question that I feel has been in large part ignored by the broader marketing community. Creative agencies have suffered from a dearth of data for many years. I'm looking to change that, working with clients, partners and platforms to connect the immense amount of marketing data that is collected every day with the creative process and creative experience. Not to constrain an idea but to find ways to amplify it's potential.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
James> Just one. When we talk about data or marketing science we should remember that science is a creative pursuit. What I mean by that is science is an attempt to see the world in a new way and communicate that discovery. Too many people expect data or marketing science to only deliver absolute truths, to provide unquestionable and irrefutable answers to incredibly complex problems. The sooner we recognise that there is of course interpretation, extrapolation and prediction in the analysis and modelling, the sooner we can bring the benefits of data science to more corners of business.