Time to Embrace Data, Mad Men

CEO of Analytics Advertising says traditional agencies should see the advantages of collaboration with data specialists.

Are traditional advertising agencies afraid of data-science businesses that claim to offer precision targeting and higher value? Talifhani Banks thinks so.

Banks,  the founder of Analytics Advertising, a data technology company providing personalised solutions and modelling, says greater collaboration is needed to bridge the growing data-content divide.

He has just been acknowledged as one of Africa’s leading tech CEOs at the Africa Tech Week awards.

A statistician and former pricing analyst at a large retail chain, Banks says he saw a gap in the market when allocating advertising budgets. And his observations will not please traditionalists.

“When I was doing the job, it was like thumbsucking. I had to continually ask who was watching or listening, and if the ad would eventually convert into sales. With a digitally-led approach there is a deeper understanding of the market: how to target it and then how much revenue to expect from that segment.”

While that argument makes sense, the question remains: are brands and their traditional above-the-line agencies increasing their exploitation of data, or just paying lip service and sticking with the tried and tested approach? That means focusing too heavily on platforms such as television, print and radio, where more hours and higher markups mean more margin.

“They are not there yet,” says Banks. “They know they have a large amount of data but because not all have data scientists, they end up ignoring valuable information.”

He believes brands and agencies need to spend more time building models that give an authentic real-time blueprint of how the business is operating and how best to develop tactical marketing strategies.

The data gospel he is preaching is nothing new or startling. Data analytics helps companies to better segment their customers, based on behaviour, and to develop content that is meaningful and has resonance. It allows advanced personalisation and tailoring of regular communication and, married to artificial intelligence, it can predict how customers will act in the future.

One retail marketer tells the FM that Banks’s argument is solid and that many local brands are behind the curve on analytics, often just drowning in a sea of numbers.

Banks says there are not enough data analysts in the marketing and branding space, and it’s high time traditional agencies saw the benefits of working more closely with data firms.

“Some, I think, are afraid they will lose the entire account if they hand over work to us. But advertising now is driven by data, and they should see advantage in more co-operation. Data is already dominating the advertising industry and will continue to do so.”

Analytics Advertising is a new breed of agency that is starting to make significant inroads into the industry. Banks is already working on well-known brands such as SANParks, cement maker PPC,  hospitality and casino group Peermont and manufacturing company  Saint-Gobain.

Banks says it is critical that brands play a more meaningful role in developing data scientists. The Global Institute for Data Science reports that there are as many as 6,000 data-science jobs open in SA right now.

According to Deloitte, data science and analytics are driving shifts in marketing so quickly that new applications for data-science solutions are emerging as fast as marketers can imagine them. The consulting giant says applications include micro-targeting and micro-segmentation, which help marketers deliver specialised offerings to smaller, highly specific customer groups.

Real-time experimentation is an emerging trend, says Deloitte, in which analytics is used to better understand customer sentiment about a product. Scenarios and experiments can be assessed in real-time rather than in hindsight or on an intermittent basis, and as a result, companies can more immediately engage with and satisfy customers.

This piece originally appeared in the Financial Mail.