How is big data relevant to communication and advertising?

With the ever increasing access to the internet, people can know anything about basically everything in just a few clicks. This is a two way street though. As much as our different digital platforms provide us with information, with data, they at same time gather information about us, they learn everything about us; about our habits, our behaviour and their patterns. There is a vast amount of data out there, bigger than most of us can even image. And this data, this big data, can be used in so many different useful ways to help companies and advertisers better communicate with customers. Yes, data, big data, the big word for quite some time now. You might not know what it is but you for sure have heard it. If not, it’s time to get out of that cave. Big data is basically a vast amount of data, so large and often complex that most processing software cannot always manage them. Big data is used for research in a variety of fields, ranging from medicine and pharmaceuticals to crime prevention to advertising (amongst others). Big data is often mistakenly seen as solely a research, data analytics and an IT issue. But truth be told, communication and advertising are strongly intertwined with data and with IT and there is no coming back from that.

A study by McKinsey has revealed that “companies that put data at the center of their marketing and sales decisions improve their marketing return on investment (MROI) by 15-20 percent”. Big data offers endless possibilities to today’s advertisers if they take the time to use it efficiently. We have had data for a long time, albeit nothing compared to the amount that we have today, but we did not always see its full potential and we should. Here are some ways in which big data can help you:

1. Create more focused campaigns

For centuries we have advertised based on certain assumptions about who will see our ads. We placed ads in papers that were relevant to our clientele, we aired commercials at the times that we knew a certain group of people would be watching, we placed posters on buildings that we knew our potential customers passed by. Focused campaigns are nothing new. The difference now is that they can be really really focused. Big data allows us to create focused campaigns by allowing us to know who to target, when and with what product. We are not talking here about just geotargeting, and targeting based on gender or age (though these are still relevant too) but also about behavioural data and metadata which allows us to know precisely who will be interested in our ads. And the interesting part is that we can know all of this just by sitting behind our desks. And with the help of programmatic advertising, there is not even a need to do this manually anymore.

2. Monitor your campaigns

Monitoring the success of an ad has always been a complicated part of advertising. The ROI was often calculated based on the number of leads that were obtained following the campaign or the popularity of the product or company but all of this was often abstract. With big data, we can track the success of campaigns. We can know how many people have seen an ad, what part of the ad they clicked on, what they did next and an enormous amount of other relevant information. Most importantly though, we can know that while the campaign is still running and adapt the ad. We can test several ads at the same time and see which one works best, and with whom, and adapt accordingly.

3. Learn more about your competitors

Big data gives you information about yourself, about your clients, your potential clients, but also about your competitors. Just a few clicks on google AdWords can already tell you what keywords your competitors are using, an estimate on how much they are paying for it and an estimate on the average number of clicks that they might have for that ad. This can give you insight into the current focus of your competitors. There is an array of tools out there that allow you to keep track your of competitors’ activities. Screaming frog, for example, can be used to crawl and analyse websites. It can be used to analyse your website and it can be used to analyse your competitors’ websites. Of course, if you can do it, they can do it too.

4. Do all of the above faster
Today’s world is a fast moving one. People are interested in one thing today and tomorrow they are interested in another one. We do not have the time to wait for someone to take 10 years to finish a study on advertising trends. By the time they are done, the world already moved to something new. Previous research methods allowed us to know about the past, albeit sometimes the recent past, but today, we need to know about the now. Big data allows that. It is true that big data by definition is data that is hard to process but with the right tools (and there are plenty of them out there), we can get relevant information quickly. That is not to say that historic data is irrelevant. It is useful to illustrate the changing trends but most often than not we need the information that is relevant for the now, not for 10 years ago.

In today’s market, it is essential to know your customers and your competition. Big data helps you to do that by giving you an insight into people’s behaviour and by helping you be more aware of the impact of your ads. We should try to embrace that by using big data and fully exploiting its potential in the communication and advertising field.