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Data is talking… but are we listening?

In the age of immediacy and action, are we missing the point when it comes to using data effectively? By Farah Moumneh, head of analytics and strategy at OMD.

Do you remember what you were doing on January 15, 2009? If you were a man named Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, then you would have been crash-landing a plane onto the Hudson River, saving the lives of every single one of the 155 passengers aboard your aircraft.

It was an extraordinary feat, and rightly played out as the heroic survival tale in the media. However it was what came after which really struck a chord; the way in which Sully had plotted his course of action. Instead of allowing data to completely drive and execute his decisions, he used it to frame his thinking, thus allowing his intuition and decades of experience to determine the right conclusion.

This account remains one of the best examples when it comes to demonstrating the correlation between human learning and genuine intelligence in using data. It’s true that we have become accustomed to placing the value of data above our own instincts at times, considering it a more reliable result than one powered by emotion alone. However, in today’s digital era of fake news, transparency concerns and brand fraud, we’re coming full circle. Humans, it would seem, are in vogue once again.

There’s long been an argument that data is killing creativity. However, it shouldn’t be about pitching them against one another; more about using each of their strengths to turn the combined benefits into solutions for clients. We’ve highlighted before how the human element is a key component when it comes to brand strategy and shouldn’t be underestimated, especially given the disruptive terrain we find ourselves operating in today.

As budgets shrink, the temptation to focus on the lower end of the funnel is evident, relying on more tangible data, such as transactional and audience data, to make decisions. As a result, brand and performance teams often find themselves at opposing ends of the spectrum, straining to work towards the same goal.

When it comes to using data efficiently, human interpretation can completely change the outcome and the decision it drives. Below are four key insights into how human intelligence paired with effective data insight and management can unlock your performance.

1. Scale doesn’t always mean depth: In today’s economy, data has become the most important currency and we’ve built an unspoken ‘data hierarchy’, favouring data with scalability as the most actionable and reliable option. Particularly in times of disruption, there are certain factors that play out publicly and outweigh our normal rational mind. Take Bitcoin, for example. It has gained notoriety simply because we have let it. Driven by sentiment and speculation, trading technologies have even begun to predict Bitcoin fluctuation using Twitter sentiment as a benchmark. In this case, it married the best of both worlds: depth with an inherently human account of sentiment, and scale by the sheer amount of data points these models used.

To read the article in full, go to Campaign Middle East.