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Datafication of advertising: How it changes the marketing landscape

Technology & Data

Datafication of advertising: How it changes the marketing landscape


Big data collection is a trendy topic these days. With large corporations gathering information about their customers, the general public might be wondering how is this data utilised. Furquan Wasif takes a deeper look into how advertisers use that new currency: data.

‘Datafication’ began with the processing powers of computers coming to the front. It was introduced to the broader lexicon in 2013 by Kenneth Cukier and Victor Mayer-Schöenberger who coined the term in their book ‘Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think’. They argued that data was a new source of competitive advantage and needed to be properly harnessed to discover insights that could lead to strategic choices that were previously unreachable.

Before we delve into what datafication means to advertising, we need to look at the broad landscape. Data, its collection and manipulation (adjusting and organizing data) to find actionable insights is key to any organisation’s success these days. To ignore data signals, at any level, for any field is folly and can be the difference between success and failure.

Data itself has now become a science. This can be seen with the rise of data analytics and data scientists whose sole responsibility is the organization, manipulation, and discovery of strategic and tactical elements that can be useful to your organizational endeavours. Global spend on IT products and services is expected to eclipse US$3.7 trillion in 2021. Enterprise software spending has doubled from 2009 to 2019 (US$458 billion in 2019) and all trends indicate that it will continue to double this decade. With such staggering numbers, we can see the emphasis organizations are placing on IT solutions to capture data, databases to store and retrieve data as well as cloud-based software that provide end-to-end solutions.

So, what it means to talk about the datafication of advertising?

In simple terms, it can be defined as the ability to track and monitor key metrics through the use of technology that is paramount to demonstrating and defining the success (or failure) of all marketing efforts. It also means that you can use these same technological means to continuously improve and optimize your advertising efforts in real-time and in future campaigns.

As organisations and businesses continue their digital transformation by replacing manual or non-digital procedures, they will rely more on bid data, data science, real-time data manipulation and retrieval along with consumer demands for personalisation of their user experiences. The need for immediacy has brought about the need for digital transformation. You can either get with it or be left behind as your competitors will provide what you are not.

When it comes to advertising, datafication has forever changed the advertising landscape. Big data continues to become even more important to organizations as they harness the power of these large data sets to inform their business and advertising decisions. Along with big data, I believe that personalisation driven by datafication will be the main driver of advertising success as companies develop capabilities using first-party data to cater to their customer base. It is already happening as we can see brands build loyalty programs and pay a monthly premium to get exclusive features.

The difficulty will lie in areas where they do not have access to first-party data. This is where ‘datafication’ solutions such as audience and data modelling to try and identify ‘buckets’ of consumers that share similar traits, likes, dislikes and behaviours will come into play. A prime example of this being built is Google’s Privacy Sandbox solution that uses anonymised signals (not cookie-based) within a person’s Chrome browser to allow advertisers to target them through these ‘buckets’ of behaviours and traits.

With discovery, progress and new inventions, our ways of doing things will continue to evolve and grow. By our nature, we are curious and always look for the next big thing. Who knows what will happen in another 40 years. Will that next big thing be the further injection of smarter, artificial intelligence-based data modelling or the integration of machine learning making those key decisions for us? Will we simply need to identify our audiences, goals, and budgets while AI looks at all our data signals to make key decisions on our behalf? If I am lucky enough to be around in 40 years, I’ll be able to answer these more objectively. In the meantime, I hope data is not used to advertise to us in real-time in a prophetic way like in the movie Minority Report.


Furquan Wasif is the head of Biddable Media, Tug Agency (Sydney).

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash.


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