Even as experts from the business, from across the globe, pay close attention to how data can generate more revenue, the examples of those who have truly understood this are few and far in between. Depending on the side of the communication and advertising business one belonged to, there is also argument on whether enough of good and relevant data is available for brands to make informed decisions in their marketing approach.
The debate is perhaps more pronounced in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where the general perception is that the industry, including marketers, is not investing enough in collecting first party data. Bassam Rizk, Director – Measurement and Data Analytics, OMD MENA, voiced this, saying, “There is massive lack of data in the region. Clients are not doing enough from a first party data viewpoint. Publishers are solely focusing on the inventory side of the business than the data side. In a bid to maximize audiences, people are being retargeted to other websites. Publishers need to understand that even from a monetization perspective, focusing on data will make more money. Third party data is also wanted in this region. This will increase our ability to be relevant to our clients. It is tricky to get these data sets but in the changing world, this is all needed and important.”
Joubran Abdul Khalek, Director – Digital & Mobile, Starcom Mediavest Group, echoed Mr Rizk’s views, and added that single source data, that was available globally, was missing locally. He said, “Third party can be bad data. Even with the bad data, we are cutting it up ourselves to make it more useful. We are trying to see the useful and useless because you cannot use everything – there is only so much data that can get you anywhere. The region has a lot going for itself in digital. There is also the tech to disperse the right ads but there isn’t enough data to enable this tech.”
Dirk Henke, Managing Director for Emerging Markets at Criteo, disagreed with the experts from the agency side of the business. “There is a lot of data available for a long time. It is true that people frustrated at times because for all the talk around data, not everyone has been able to generate any revenue coming from data. But there is data in the market, and we are always looking for good data, that we manage to get too, since we use first party data for the clients we represent,” he said.
The experts agreed that large players such as Google and Facebook that were used by billions of users were able to create single identity but this was not true for all.
Youmna Borghol, Head of Data Science at the Choueiri Group took a more neutral stand saying that the region had begun to see more of good, usable data. She said, “A lot goes into creating the right components to audience segments. It is an art and science. Eventually, it is not simply tagging but making sure that the same person is seeing the right content flow and messaging across the sites. We have to also make sure that the recency, relevancy and frequency are right.”
She informed that that DMS is building profiles collecting first party data of 120 million uniques. “This is mainly behavioral and demographic data put together. We are seeing 30 billion data points monthly across our properties. Sometimes we tend to miss the full picture if you don’t have the interest, but data helps you complete it and we focus in doing so,” she said.
Mr Rizk clarified that in the advertising expenditure pie, only 10-12 percent of the digital budget, which is a smaller slice of the overall ad spends was dedicated to data led solutions. “The investment is limited,” he noted.
Despite the growth and proliferation of mobile, the spend on mobile from the advertiser side is even more restrained. In their attempt to be future ready, advertising technology companies have invested in decoding mobile. The transition from online to mobile is much faster than the transition to online has been. But mobile, given the different screens, operating systems and being cookie-less presents bigger challenges. “Complex is becoming the new normal. But everything is on mobile and we transformed ourselves from a desktop company to a predominant mobile company much earlier. It was a painful process but it was much required,” stated Mr Henke.
The experts were speaking at the ongoing Step Conference 2016 in Dubai.