I left university with little concept of, or interest in, data and marketing. Like many, I fell into the industry by accident, landing an analyst role in the data production team at Wegener DM on the strength of having played with some databases during temp work.
At Wegener, I had access to a rich UK lifestyle survey data-set, where I could profile data to my heart’s content. I found it was a great foundation from both an insight and technical perspective.
From there, I wanted to get closer to the action, so left for a marketing agency and have never looked back. I spent 11 years at TMW, rising through the ranks of campaign operations, data account management to data planning and analytics.
Then, five years ago, I left to head up data at Wunderman Thompson. It’s been brilliant so far, building a hugely talented team, delivering great work and seeing this turned into business growth. The variety I’ve had in my career is fantastic; from coding to stitch data-sets, exploring customer databases, recommending third-party data sources, brainstorming ideas with planners and creatives, through to leading a team building new capabilities in personalisation, search, social analysis and AI.
Not sure there’s a single moment, but, when I look back on the past few years, I do feel immense pride in seeing how far we’ve come as a team; winning new clients, awards, expanding with new capabilities and delivering data insights and solutions we simply couldn’t have done before. Whenever we can clearly demonstrate data insight leading to action, leading to growth for our clients, it’s an achievement, so this is the focus for us. However, I get the best feeling from seeing everyone’s efforts coming to fruition and their personal growth that goes with this.
I draw inspiration from many people; perhaps looking for specific values in different role models. My dad for work ethic, Barack Obama for leadership with integrity, Elon Musk for the ambition to break new frontiers, Malala Yousafzai for the courage to stand up for what’s right.
Some of the bigger trends, such as the growth of AI and businesses wrestling with data privacy concerns were wholly predictable, though some of the specifics perhaps less so. In the aftermath of the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal and Senate hearings, we’ve seen the big tech companies take differing stances. Twitter announcing a ban on all political advertising contrasting to Facebook’s “educate not prohibit” approach focusing on a “Privacy is personal” ad campaign. Apple and Google have each taken their own positions on data privacy and it’ll be interesting to how see this plays out.
In my experience, the reality is that trends are more typically evolutionary rather than revolutionary within a single year. However, sometimes there are events that drive change at a faster rate. In 2020, with changes already happening or being announced from tech companies such as Google, businesses are going to have to quickly adapt to forms of ad tracking other than the third party cookie. Many business models are at risk and companies will need to innovate while maintaining a respect for consumer privacy. On a broader note, data ethics will grow even more to prominence.
The most important for me is climate change; how we measure and evidence this, through to developing new solutions for sustainable energy, materials and living. Though the biggest barrier to this is political and we’re perhaps some way off from data and tech replacing the politicians.
Outside of this, there are many other opportunities that either automate what we already do or enable us to do what we previously couldn’t; break-throughs in medical diagnosis and treatment, space tourism, voice assistants to name a few. We just need to ensure the risks are kept in check as we navigate progress.
I’d say organisation is typically the biggest challenge our clients face, though often closely tied to technology. Encouragingly, our clients nearly always have data at the heart of their digital transformation vision; turning this into reality is more complex, however. It’s a recurring story of fragmented data and systems, slow and expensive transformation projects due to legacy, skills gaps when taking on new capabilities, siloes between marketing, data and IT departments. These are all critical challenges and ones we help them solve to ensure they successfully drive business growth and out-transform the competition.