Why Every Marketing Department Needs A Data Scientist

As innovative technologies transform marketing, don’t let your company get left behind. Columnist Benjamin Spiegel explains why data scientists are a critical component of every marketing team.


Back in the “old days” (not so very long ago), if a junior marketer had a question, he or she would seek out the most senior member on the team — the person with the most experience who always had the best answers to the questions or knew where to get them. Their answers were backed up by their experience, which was a very different kind of data from what we see today.

Back then, agency experience translated into data points in a different context — not of metrics derived from ad servers or social media platforms or aggregation formulas, but the knowledge that accumulated over years in the business.

That data came from different campaigns, clients and strategies, from many dozens of client meetings and presentations, from witnessing the winners and losers over the course of a career. These data points might be measurable, they could be anecdotal, but they all added up to experience.

Today, that scenario looks a bit different on the exterior, but it’s essentially the same. That’s because, with the evolution of digital media and the rise of technology, it is often no longer the case that the person with the most seniority knows “best.”

Data = Power

In today’s marketing world, the power and knowledge often lie with the person with the best data access and deepest understanding of that information.

For many “old timers” who grew up in traditional advertising — even those who were around at the dawn of digital — this can be a tough reality to accept.

As an example, I have been working in digital marketing since before the internet; I was there for the first search ad and have been running search campaigns long before the days of Google and its million algorithm updates. By all assumptions, I should know how to write the perfect search ad and pinpoint which targeting methods will deliver the best conversions.

Unfortunately, quite the opposite is true.

At our agency, the best search recommendations are coming not from senior leaders but from a 20-something-year-old data scientist. She does not know what remarketing lists are or what AltaVista was, and never heard the painful noise of a 28k dial-up modem.

But when I ask her what search copy works best for 40-year-old golf enthusiasts during the weekend on a post-game day, she knows. When I ask her what time of day is best for selling shampoo to teenagers, she knows — even though she has never logged into the AdWords interface or attended a single SMX session.

She knows these valuable tidbits because as one of our data scientists, she has access to every ad we have ever run and every interaction for each client. She is connected to, and consuming all of, the publicly available data, from Google Trends to ComScore to Rentrak.

And she is not just collecting and storing all of this rich data; she uses it to create models that can analyze and predict consumer behavior — and drive better creative and marketing decisions.

Why Data Scientists Are A Secret Weapon

She and her team are our secret weapon; they allow our brands to not only spend their marketing dollars more wisely and efficiently, but also help our clients beat their competition.

It is for these reasons that — given the complexity of data collection, visualization and analysis, and the enormous quantities of information gathered across multiple platforms — not only should agencies have data scientists on staff to better serve their clients, but every brand’s marketing department should do so, as well.

Marketing departments should have their own in-house expert who can collaborate with your agency data scientist and draw connections between agency and client data. Staying on top of the media landscape today is becoming increasingly challenging, and more a data challenge than a creative one.

This is fueled not only by the increasing number of platforms and their distinct data sets, but also by the rising complexity of the data coming from the platforms.

No one can be an expert in every tool created to aggregate and analyze all that information. For today’s marketers to stay ahead of the competition and not spend their days learning every new data solution that comes to market or analyzing hundreds of new metrics, they need to leverage the expertise of data scientists for winning results.

Some of our clients have already invested in their data science capabilities, and we have seen a huge improvement in their advertising’s effectiveness, as well as their ability to work more cohesively with their agencies and media platforms.

At this point, we all need our expert interpreters, the data scientists who will get us all speaking the same language — and drive more targeted campaigns and meaningful conversations not only between brands and their consumers but with their agencies, as well.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)


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