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Rewriting the 80/20 Rule

By Kathie Haydon

Data and large amounts of it is nothing new to anyone who works in media. I can remember sitting in the media lab as an assistant media planner on a big DOS computer with its blinking yellow cursor typing in code lines for MRI from a 1,200-page binder.

Yes, the digitization of pretty much every channel has opened up the floodgates when it comes to data, and we in media, the original number geeks, are embracing the fascinating evolution of our practice. It makes us smarter in everything we do, from audience development to channel planning to instantaneous optimizations and closing the loop with business results.

But then there is the dangerous side of this data influx: the tendency to lose all constraint and become a data hoarder just for the sake of having it, as well as the darkness that can follow as you climb into a deep hole for days (even weeks) trying to make sense of it all. The cardinal rule of data is quality over quantity. It’s only as good as the actions that come from it. If you’re spending 80% of your time compiling and sifting through the data and only 20% of your time thinking about it, then you have the ratio all wrong.

The good news is that with the sophistication of data comes a whole set of tools that are helping us rewrite the 80/20 rule. The most basic example is Clear Decisions—this tool has transformed the act of entering MRI codes into a DOS computer to get one set of simple demographics against a brand into sitting at your desk and being able to drag and drop coding from multiple sources, as well as manipulate it to build complex audiences while creating crosstabs against thousands of data points with the click of a mouse.

But it’s not just about the existing industry software solutions that are being rolled out to keep pace with the data available; it’s about creating your own tools to fill the gaps or overcome subpar products.

We are working on the next iteration of our longstanding engagement tool, ALLI Plan. Simply put, we are refreshing an already powerful product to better account for changes in how people are consuming media. The key measures of attention, loyalty and lifestyle will remain, but expanding those measures to pull in the deeper data out there—ranging from social chatter around TV shows to time spent with magazines on their tablet editions. This expansion of data is only valuable if it can be layered on our existing baseline measures in a way that makes sense and is easily updated.

GSD&M’s proprietary dashboard, Telescope, is transforming the way we report to our clients. It’s made us faster while reducing propensity for human error, the net being better results. Why? Because reports that used to take us 14 hours to compile now take less than two. We can get to the more actionable insights more quickly, and the tangible outcome is substantial improvement on key performance indicators—in some cases 70%.

Welcome to the new world—where we spend 20% of our time compiling information and 80% thinking about. That is a powerful new ratio.

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