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The End of Intuition? A Discussion with Anindya Ghose

Posted by Penry Price on March 27th, 2013 at 8:24 am

In the first installment of this series, we got the perspective of Paul Pellman, CEO of Adometry, on how data and measurement collide with the intuition of advertisers and marketers across the industry.  As part of our effort to bridge the worlds of advertising and academia, I spoke with Anindya Ghose, NYU professor and co-director of the Stern Center for Business Analytics.  Anindya’s research is all about measuring and quantifying cross-media, cross-device and cross-platform synergies in digital marketing and social media to determine true reach and value.  He provides an interesting perspective and window into the future.

What is your take on how the data science revolution in advertising changes the role of intuition?

The last few decades have been a gradual evolution from the Mad Men era.  Traditionally, strategic decisions were made by the advertiser’s gut instincts.  Pour some scotch, sit back on your leather sofa, and wait for inspiration to strike with the next idea of a slogan consumers can’t resist.  That evolution has accelerated, and the advertising world now looks a lot more like revenge of the nerds.  Data scientists are the new sexy professionals.  There is still a place for creative, but data now drives all aspects of the campaign.  We live and work in a world with a ton of data, both big and small.  So where executives once could give the go-ahead on a campaign based on their own feelings, now they get pushback from their teams to look at the data and test their guts.  Gut decisions, which were once seen as inspired (if they succeeded), are now viewed as rash.  To command authority, you need the numbers to back you up.

Anindya is seeing this first hand as the worlds of advertising and academia become more intrinsically linked.  Marketers, advertisers and executives are heading back to school -- not for a new degree, but for a training class in data science.  They need to understand the language perspective of the data scientists, and enrollment in analytics training courses are rising quickly.  There is a huge focus on the quality and quantity of data, and how it can be harnessed to take advertising campaigns to the next level.

What are the key considerations for advertisers in their efforts to optimize strategies and campaigns using data science?

I focus a lot of my research to the mobile advertising space.  It is the ultimate connection point for advertisers to reach and connect with target audiences.  Mobile devices introduce a multitude of contexts and touch-points with consumers that were previously unimaginable.  Now advertisers can consider time of day, precise location, device, movement, browser type, app, and many more factors.  And connecting effectively with consumers on these devices requires that advertisers analyze all of these aspects and how they interact with each other.

We are constantly learning how to more effectively reach consumers through things like location-based services, and assessing what time of day it is.  For example, with location-based advertising, a potential customer can receive a personal, customized coupon pushed to their phones for a great place to have lunch right around the corner.   And even better than driving new business, interactions like these with consumers are driving new insights that allow brands and advertisers to more effectively assess what their consumers are interested in, what type of advertising works, and what adjustments to make in the future.  According to Nielsen, the mobile coupon redemption rate is 10 times that of traditional coupons.

Mobile is such a personal device.  It is the link between the online and offline world.  We need to mine all these rich, digital trails that mobile users are leaving behind.  The mobile ecosystem is fascinating today, and is only going to grow more interesting.  Consumer usage of these devices is skyrocketing.  In 2012, more than 20 percent of U.S. internet usage came from mobile devices, and that is going to grow to over 50 percent in the very near future.  We can’t just focus on web-based advertising anymore.  Mobile is huge already, but its just going to get bigger.  Advertisers need to shift more and more dollars.  After all, the numbers don’t lie about where consumers are spending time, consuming media, and viewing ads.

What’s on your data science and advertising reading list?

There’s no one comprehensive book in the space, and I haven’t seen anything that’s really blown me away.  It suggests that there’s a lot of room out there for a really good read.

To learn more about how data science is changing the role of intuition, watch presentations from the recent Advertising + Data Science Congress (ADS-CON).

One Response to “The End of Intuition? A Discussion with Anindya Ghose”

  1. Tom Garrett says:

    Machines will never be able to replace good marketers and their intuition. There's no amount of Big Data or well-conceived mathematical modeling that could have predicted Justin Beiber would tweet about this singed named Carly Rae Jepson and that the result would be a series of video memes on YouTube, including a mashup of snippets from the President. Nor could it predict that an obscure singer from Korea would appear out of nowhere and rocket to the top of video views (not to mention all the memes inspired by that).

    Putting one's faith in super-models (and I don't mean Iman or Christy Turlington) led us to the big financial crash of '09. I would recommend a reading of "The Quants" and "Black Swan" if you have doubts about the importance of human intuition and why one should not rely solely on what the data says, or seems to say.

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