In 2015, the Francis Crick Institute, named after one of our greatest biomedical researchers, will open its doors near Euston Square. It will house nearly 1,200 researchers from around the world pursuing ground-breaking medical research. Crucially, even the building itself has been designed to allow engineers, mathematicians, chemists and physicists to work freely together in a manner not seen in research institutions before.
In his vision for the new Institute, Sir Paul Nurse, current president of the Royal Society and Nobel Prize winner, cited the need for “absolute integration” and “freedom of expression and creativity” to ensure that “data drives behaviour and behaviour drives data”. He is determined that great minds are not always constrained to a single, commercially-driven objective but are provided a degree of creative freedom.
At the very heart of this ambitious project is a desire for great minds with vastly-different specialisms to have an environment to share, learn and prosper. This is entirely consistent with the original Royal Charter for the Society, but provides a radical template for research programs of the future.
This clarity of vision is one that could - and should - equally apply to the entire marketing services community - from brands to advertising agencies, media agencies, data management businesses and management consultancies.
Until the explosion of digital, the role of marketers had changed little in three decades. Now, as marketers, we are uniquely placed to capitalise on the opportunity to integrate technology, data, analytics and strategic thinking rapidly into a single, fully-articulated proposition. This is not a given as marketing - and particularly media - are all too often the victims of change rather than its architect. However, this belies the scale of the opportunity that has presented itself just as the volume of data on consumer behaviour grows exponentially.
For brands and agencies, integration requires that all data relating to marketing effectiveness, customer and prospect behaviour are available within a single repository and in real-time if required. This is to ensure that the link between action and performance is fully optimised and connected directly to a balanced scorecard.
This, in turn, has to be supported by a single, secure and very scaleable technology stack with a high degree of operational resilience. This same repository must enable a range of modelling techniques that include econometrics, customer value, segmentation and attribution at cookie level. It must also support media planning and performance management with absolute clarity regarding business goals and simple definitions, such as customer value.
It is perhaps now apparent that the organisational structure and associated processes also need to be aligned to deliver against this common purpose. That agencies will require more maths graduates is both a correct assumption and an over-simplification for two reasons.
Firstly, the volume of data on a customer or prospect is now vast and, within the confines of privacy legislation, will continue to grow. The ability to process and mine this data and determine which factors drive efficiency and customer loyalty requires data management expertise as much as statistical modelling. It is the union of these skill sets that will generate positive results.
The second is the absolute need for strategic, creative thinking as emphasised by the Royal Society. The creative product can - and does - take many forms and should both feed and be fed by customer insight and data. It is also vital that the processes and tools are in place to capture such data so that the application of customer insight drives value on an incremental basis.
For some, that data capability has not yet progressed from the basement and has certainly not reached the boardroom. For marketers, and particularly for those working with or in media, data is not another product to get right, it is the basis of our entire product.
As we reflect on the risks and opportunities presented by vast quantities of consumer data and the speed of change required, we should be mindful of the fact that the Royal Society has its roots in 1660 and has already reinvented itself for this century.