Big Data – Can it work at scale?

Let’s cut right to it: Not the way it is used today.

Big data has been around for a long time. Surprising to some digital marketers that a marketing world existed before them, big data permeated the world of direct marketers and beyond. So, there are many brands using it correctly, but not everyone. As you move the eye of judgment from large national brands to local advertising, the percentage of right diminishes.

Let’s focus on local. It’s on the local level where the danger is significant and persistent. This doesn’t fall to small advertisers, this is any advertiser trying to reach users on a local level. Many requests come with zip codes and an impossible mix of “and” statements accompanied by an edict that nothing beyond the audience can be used.

Where this absolutely fails – repeat, absolutely fails – is that it assumes the data includes EVERYONE that fits the profile. That somehow, the cataloguing is perfect in capturing everyone that might be in that particular bucket. This means, you are missing out on a big portion of your target. And, it doesn’t even get into the issue of where and how the data was sourced.

What should we do?

  • Be realistic. Looking for a tight audience? Make sure to get what you want, but think beyond checking the box. This can be done by relaxing the restrictions, or looking for your audience in other data segments.
  • Use different tactics. Data targeted can mean many things. Don’t rely on just one. The tactic doesn’t need to be a buzzword. Hint: buzzwords don’t always create sales.
  • Ask questions. Where is the data sourced? A data provider name should not be the only answer, unless you know how that provider sources it.
  • Repeat. Being stuck in a loop is generally bad. Not in this case. Once you find an audience that works, look for more. Push down the urge to use assumptions.

David Powers

Sr. Director, Client Services