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The Data Trends that with Drive Globalised Media

July 09, 2013

What’s the biggest hurdle that global media management faces in the coming years? One good candidate is data and how its managed. It’s hard to corral information across different regions that operate with different procedures, different ways of entering data, different kinds of data and different technology systems. Until we all figure out how to connect all the data dots globally, truly global media management will face enormous hurdles.

While making global media management may never be completely seamless, there are some very promising trends to watch in data management that offer a really promising future.

Let’s look at four key trends.

1. Big Data

From credit card and NFC payments, to website visits, to Foursquare & Facebook check-ins, we’re increasingly living in a world in which every part of consumers’ lives leaves a digital mark, all over the globe. All of those digital marks make it possible to compare activities and trends across markets at a granularity and speed never before imaginable. That, in a nutshell, is the promise of big data for global business intelligence—including global advertising management.

Of course, the flip side is the problem of finding which data to look at when, and how, within that deluge of information.

2. Data Visualisation

Global management requires making easy comparisons, plain sense and clear decisions out of huge data sets from all over the globe. That kind of insight can be very hard to capture by scouring through hundreds of thousands of rows of data (or more)—particularly for data sets that change frequently. That’s where data visualisation comes in, turning complex information into understandable images. The good news is that it’s a fast-growing field: just look at hot companies like Tableau Software.

3. Master Data Management

Perhaps the biggest hurdle in global data management—not just in media, but across all industries—is the incredibly mundane-sounding issue of data-entry codes.

To give a very simplified version of the problem, consider the following. Media businesses need to keep track of every Pound and Euro that they spend. Because that’s so, they record every action they use, tied to the client they work for, within a master system (or a number of different systems) designed to help the finance, media and other teams keep track of how each employee manages advertisers’ budgets. Rather than haphazardly entering work longhand—say, writing, “bought display ad for Colgate,” entries are standardized around codes like COL – DISPLAY.

Of course, things get complicated if there’s a lack of standardisation within the organisation—if, say, sometimes Colgate is recorded as COL, and other times as CLG. When there’s that level of discrepancy, anyone who needs to run a full report on Colgate activity will need to pull one report for information around COL, another report around CLG, and then tie the information together. Reconciling the reports is inevitably labour-intensive, inefficient and error-prone. None of which is good—especially for agency execs who need to understand and compare easily across very large advertising operations with a lot of moving parts, and lots of kinds of code to enter.

This kind of problem happens in every kind of business—from tiny one-office companies, to global enterprises. Sometimes the coding problems revolve around the obvious tasks, like buying a display ad for Colgate; but keep in mind that big businesses handle hundreds of thousands of tasks—or far more—on any given day. At a certain point, managing how to code each kind of task gets very complicated.

Global businesses are particularly at risk here. Often, people aren’t in a single office to easily communicate what gets coded, and how. Meanwhile, actual tasks vary, sometimes subtly, from country to country—so it can be hard to pin down which action code should capture what activity.

While the European and North American major media markets have gotten standardisation down fairly well—especially in traditional media—it’s the fast-growing areas that make the necessary standards a moving target. I’m talking about developing regions—especially the BRIC countries—and new digital channels that haven’t benefited from fifty-plus years of infrastructure to make standards truly standard.

In other words, one of the biggest challenges to making media management truly global is the problem of getting all the small bits of global information to speak the same language.

That’s why the field of Master Data Management (MDM) is a critical one to watch. MDM systems let you roll different versions of information (like different codes for the same product or task) into a single version of the truth. This means a brand manager in London can easily pull a report and have the system reconcile the different codes from Portugal, France and Sweden into one interface. MDM has been around for quite some time; but continuing to push this back-end data processing ahead is critical to the infrastructure of global enterprise, including global media enterprise.

Companies to watch in this space include the ones you’d expect—Oracle, etc.; lesser-known businesses in the space include companies like Talend.

Now for the side of the story that’s a lot closer to the media consumer:

4. Truly Interoperable Channels

Between digital extensions of offline media—like Shazam and Twitter’s Amplify—and products like Nike Plus that turn shoes into sources for online data, there’s an increasing trend toward bringing every touchpoint into the digital fold. If you’re reading this publication, you probably know this already.

This is a potential boon for global media management—as it’s a trend of taking location-specific media (like TV) and pairing it with digital media that lives online, which is to say everywhere. Think about it this way: when TV data—which is regional—is tied to data from Twitter, a global media channel, then it’s easier to tie your TV data to global data.

The more location-specific channels tie together with purely digital ones, the better it is for global data management.

Of course, as an industry, we’re nowhere near where we’d all like to be on any four of these areas. But the breakthroughs in all of them have been incredible in the last few years—which is why I see a very bright future in connecting the dots across global advertising.