Our industry is in the midst of a historical transformation and the kinds of questions our clients are asking us are evolving and becoming increasingly complex. Every day, we see fewer and fewer clients working with agencies that focus on one particular discipline. Specialization can be important, but what clients are looking for is partners that can help them solve business problems. Providing that solution is far more important than whether that partner labels themselves as a public relations, digital or marketing shop.
The complexity of the problems clients are asking us to solve is compounded by the fact that a new social channel that pops up every single day. Not only are we responsible for managing each of these new channels, they also provide us with ever-increasing amounts of audience data, helping us understand how customers behave and how effective we are at reaching them. This is where we come in.
Over the last five years our analytics team has grown from a handful of analysts in Austin to over 70 around the world in five different offices. We’re being asked by some of the world’s leading brands to come in and deliver insights on an unprecedented scale. The great news is that we love a challenge, and we love clients who afford us the opportunity to innovate and grow.
We’re working with great brands on incredibly challenging assignments now, but we didn’t experience this kind of growth by just sitting on our hands. Jim Weiss and Bob Pearson are constantly pushing us to innovate, while focusing on delivering flawlessly for our clients all of the time. As we move into 2014, we’re in the position of building on the long history of success W2O Group has had with its analytics practice. It’s a great position to be in where we have such excellent clients, supportive executive team and the best team of analysts you will find at any agency anywhere in the world. That said, there is a lot of work to do and only a finite number of hours in the day in order to continue growing, innovating and delivering for our clients. So, here is what the analytics practice and I will be focused on in 2014 and beyond:
• Business intelligence replacing digital intelligence – We will move towards delivering is insights that solve business problems and not just communications problems. For example, if online consumer conversations can forecast market trends, that sort of data will be just as valuable for product development teams as communications teams.
• Think global first – Few and far between are the assignments we receive today that don’t have some sort of global angle. Over the last two years we’ve rapidly grown our international analytics team in London, and now have cultural and language fluency in many of the top ten languages of the Internet. Our focus will be on ensuring we cover all of those primary languages, have excellent data in those markets and come to the table with strong global insights for our clients every single time without them even asking.
• PESO analytics is a must – During this stretch of rapid expansion many of our clients have been hyper-focused on social media. Rightfully so, given that the vast majority of the media’s expansion has come from a handful of the most popular social networks. However, many of our clients are now starting to ask how the social media data we’re pulling relates to the data they are pulling for the .com and how all of that is impacted by paid media activities. We have growing capabilities in the areas of paid and owned media analytics and are accelerating integration into our existing products.
• Less counting. More understanding human behavior – From the early days of social analytics we’ve been including pie charts and bar charts quantifying for clients how much activity is taking place online about their brand, competitors and key topics of interest. There’s value in that sort of measurement and listening. It gives the client a baseline understanding of how much activity is out there that they could capitalize on. However, the richness available in publicly-available media data today is allowing us to move on from “counting mentions” and on understanding human behavior at a much deeper level. Conducing audience segmentation analyses in a fraction of the time and cost it took to do traditional audience segmentation in the past. Understanding key behavioral traits at each stage of the buying journey. Knowing the keywords consumers use when they’re likely to make a purchase. We expect that online and social data will completely disrupt the way that traditional market research is conducted in the coming years.
• Faster insights – At W2O Group we talk a lot about the concept of content engineering. In a nutshell it is going from gather data, to developing insights, to creating content, to publishing content in a matter of hours and not weeks. Content has to be agile, and appropriate for a specific moment in time. While there will always be the need for deeper dive research like what we described, clients are increasingly asking how we can deliver insights in real-time so that they can take advantage of those trends that might be hot online at a given moment in time. This sounds easy to do, of course, but in practice is very hard. We’ve had some early successes here will be working hard with our Media & Engagement, and CCX teams in order to make this a core part of our offering in 2014.
As Bob always says there’s likely five or six more things I could have talked about or focused on, but that’s probably enough. I’m looking forward to partnering with our operating company leaders, Chris Deri, Jennifer Gottlieb and Paulo Simas to continue delivering flawless and innovative work for our clients in the years ahead. I’m excited about what this year will bring, and tackling the challenges inherent in leading a large, global team. Now, it’s time to get to work.