Big data presents unprecedented privacy challenges for marketers, says Havas chief

The global media group's MD talks about the importance of big data and analytics in the marketing and brand sphere but warns customer engagement using these insights is a delicate balance

From left: Dominique Delport with new head of Havas Media Group in Australia, Mike Wilson, and CEO of Asia-Pacific, Vishnu Mohan

The unprecedented threat to privacy presented by big data means marketers need to become extremely vigilant in how they use customer intelligence for future gain.

Speaking to CMO during the inaugural Data Strategy Symposium in the Hunter Valley, global MD of the Havas Media Group, Dominique Delport, pointed out that while big data has huge potential for improving our ability to engage with consumers at an individual value-based level, poor data management can just as easily hurt us.

He used the recent NSA Prism scandal unmasked by whistle blower, Edward Snowden, as an example of the significant negative outcomes organisations face if data access is misused or abused.

“Every week there are more information leaks, and we’re being told of how data is circulating the industry, and how the NSA infiltrates Google data centres worldwide,” he said. “These Internet providers now have to try and reclaim the trust of their customers.

“The biggest mistake is that people look at this as big data, but it’s all about people data. Never forget what these people think of their own data. Each data set relates to individuals, families, households and reality. It’s not about technology but about behaviours and views.

“We have to be conscious of what we have, and both manage and connect data sets and protect systems and a person’s privacy.”

In a bid to minimise risk exposure, Havas is compiling its own privacy data framework, which will be released in December. Delport advised other organisations to construct company-wide guidelines in order to avoid backlash from inappropriate use of individual data, and to help gain consumer trust in the new age of one-to-one marketing.

“We are paradoxical when it comes to data,” he told delegates at the event. “We want to receive some relevant information using our data patterns, but we don’t want companies to overuse it.

“The problem is things are moving very quicker. Even trusted platforms and companies like Facebook have been too quick and went too far, and had to apologise because they changed the rules without explaining what it means for consumers. We need to be very conscious about that as the data mix gets more and more complex. We can’t assume people know; that won’t prevent the backlash.

“You have to be transparent, methodical, and if you fail you need to immediately acknowledge it and fix it.”

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The potential of big data is obvious. Delport detailed Obama’s successful presidential re-election campaign in the US in 2012; the first time data sat at the core of an election campaign. The campaign team was run by 100 data scientists and involved data modelling, targeted TV advertising through set-top box information, and analytics to better understand and communicate with the right percentage of the population.

The team also used predictive analytics to increase the possibility of consumers voting for Obama and re-ran the election 66,000 times each night of the weeks-long campaign using the first results to see its progress.

For marketers looking to build sustainable brands, success comes down to understanding data to give consumers more relevant offers and info, Delport said. He saw rich content as key in this exchange. “There’s still a huge lack of trust of brands and the first step in any relationship is reinforcing that trust. Data is pivotal to that discussion.

“It’s all about balance and transparency in those conversations. Customer intelligence is the means to drive customer experience.”

Delport said social media platforms have ushered in a “new global village” powered by “data-driven organic growth”. Marketers today have an unprecedented ability to jump from customer segments to individuals at scale, he continued, thanks to the velocity, granularity and variety of information at their disposal.

At the same time, this kind of data is not easily converted into traditional structures and has led to social channels becoming more siloed, he claimed.

“We need to connect the dots – online and offline data, sales data, and rethink data-driven organic growth to put customers first,” Delport said. “It’s less about big systems, and more about open systems that aggregate existing information already, and make it clear and actionable. Think of the marketing, IT and consumer worlds as one.”

Utilising data to be more relevant is critical as first step in a meaningful journey, he said. One such example is on-demand TV and movie distributor, Netflix, which generates 75 per cent of total viewing time through its recommendation algorithm.

“Look at Google Search – it’s considered more as an information source, than as advertising,” Delport added. “Data at scale can provide that info to your organisation, but you have to be conscious of how you use that data, circulate it, and build IP for clients, not ourselves.”

To improve capabilities in this space, Havas recently acquired mathematics think tank, MGF Labs. The company bridges the gap between maths research and actionable insights for the economic and commercial world, Delport said.

For those struggling to work out how to develop a unified data approach, Delport advised them to consider customer analytics as an ecosystem, and data in terms of paid, owned and earned. Look at what you have, how you use data sets or not, and create a dashboard that CMOs and CEOs can make sense of and drive consistency across the organisation, he said.

According to Delport, the current plethora of personal data generated through digital and social communication is the tip of the iceberg to what’s on the horizon. The emergence of the Internet of Things will be a major source of data as more people adopt smart fitness bands, smart watches and personalised data devices.

“We’re just at the beginning, and are entering the connected world where we have smart cars, and even smart cities,” he added.

Delport’s top takeaways for data-driven marketers:
  • Be humble and better listeners
  • Data drives new questions, not only answers
  • Data is at the core, not in silos
  • You need to develop a user-centric data ecosystem
  • Be agile – focus on actions versus just collection
  • Be fast and transparent, or be ready for a data backlash

- CMO was the media partner for the inaugural Data Strategy Symposium, organised by Ashton Media, in the Hunter Valley on 25-27 November.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO Australia conversation on LinkedIn: CMO Australia, or join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia

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