Data is the new black. Touted as a silver marketing bullet, data and scientific thinking will guide creativity in an evolving social and mobile universe. This is the rationale underlying the launch of OgilvyAmp, essentially an aggregation and rebranding of the data wonk’s buried among Ogilvy’s global offices.

This is a great PR move, which exaggerates Ogilvy’s IBM-driven capabilities and differentiates the WPP agency from the rest of us who manage and analyze data for clients. Yet in spite of these press-worthy moves and the widespread availability of proven data collection, mining, processing and automation tools mainstream marketers aren’t walking the walk.

So why would rational competitive marketers underutilize tools that could make them smarter, faster and richer?

Here are 6 stumbling blocks reasons:

Math Phobia.

Most of us suck at math or are still traumatized by residual math anxiety from school. Couple this with the general feeling that math constrains creativity and you have an attitudinal bias against using the data at hand.

Talent Deficit.

The top math guys don’t work in marketing or advertising. Agencies, marketers, e-merchants and publishers are constantly trolling for hard-to-find analysts, modelers and database marketers but come up short. For math savants, advertising is baby stuff. There are few consensus metrics or best practices. Getting access to data by finessing internal technical and political structures is a frequently a hurdle.

Low IT Priority.

Database projects are low priority generally for corporate IT. The relatively low complexity of the tasks or systems and the absence of a perceived ROI benefit ranks marketing needs far below complex, big budget IT landscape, software or architecture projects. Marketing data applications generally require much more hands-on technical support and service because marketers are unwilling or unable to run the software themselves. So IT guys run the other way.

Cost-Value Perceptions.

In many cases, modest costs yield immediate and significant lift in awareness, traffic, engagement and sales. Decision-makers don’t understand the technology or how it’s applied. Data infrastructure is perceived as non-productive plumbing. So data investments can be cut, delayed or ignored without fear of harming business results. Ironically the truth is exactly the opposite; by tightening up the plumbing and crunching the numbers you can add incremental value quickly and predictably.

Data Overload.

Many brands collect mountains of data but can’t make sense of it. Data is too overwhelming. So they ignore it. These guys are willing skip over customer insight, practical segmentation, personalization, channel strategy, customer intimacy and message cues because the numbers look too big and intimidating.

Big Brother.

Some data deniers focus on either a genuine concern for customer privacy or on a fear of violating privacy rules. The reality is that we have pretty good consumer privacy laws and enforcement. None of which has dampened consumer willingness to trade personal data for deals and relationships. We have useful, accessible and affordable tools that are underutilized because they aren’t sexy, aren’t understood or aren’t the flavor-of-the-week.

Maybe Ogilvy Amp’s moment in the sun will open a few eyes.


Danny FlambergDanny Flamberg has been building brands and businesses for more than 25 years.

In the US, Europe and South America, he has helped start-ups become important players in their markets and helped leading global brands extend their reach, market share and relationships with customers.


(Image credit: John Konrath)

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