Real-time Data: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Apr 18, 2005  •  Post A Comment

By Jack Neff

Advertising Age

Delivering real-time sales data and TV advertising information has become so efficient that marketers are now worried the analysis of that data may intensify short-term thinking. Some are even raising questions as to who should be trusted to see and interpret it.

After seeing strong double-digit increases in the past year in sales of marketing-mix modeling to return-on-investment-conscious marketers, marketing analytics firms are aiming to go one better by slicing and dicing the data in near real time and delivering it in simplified dashboard-style formats.

But the new systems may be outpacing the capability of research firms to deliver TV advertising and retail point-of-sales data. And efforts to make the data and analysis more accessible are raising questions about who should dissect that information and just how beneficial getting ROI analysis done even faster will be.

“Marketing-mix models are wonderful for a point in time, but they’re somewhat backward-looking,” said Ed See, executive VP of product development and consulting for Aegis Group’s Marketing Management Analytics. “What’s been missing is combining a mix model with forecasting and actual live data feeds. It gives you the power to watch your actual results versus your forecasts, identify the causal drivers and find what to do to get back on track and optimize spending.”

Not all the needs for midcourse corrections are driven by how the marketing campaign is working. “I might have built my plan on hitting a volume target, but now I’m halfway through the year and I get a budget cut that comes down from corporate and I need to re-optimize to hit a profit goal,” said John Nardone, executive VP of product development and marketing for MMA. “As a former brand manager at Procter & Gamble, I know that’s a pretty typical scenario.”

Another emerging use for the new, continuously updated tools is portfolio management, or monitoring how marketing plans for one brand could affect a company’s other brands in the same category, Mr. Nardone said. “It’s a very active what-if tool,” he said. “And that’s something that we really feel marketing managers have needed for some time.”

Independent marketing-analytics shop ImmediateFX began marketing systems last year that can deliver marketing-mix modeling continuously for forecasting and troubleshooting-potentially helping marketers make on-the-fly adjustments to marketing plans.

MMA launched Avista, with similar capabilities, earlier this year; sibling media planning and buying shop Carat also uses the technology with clients. Other research industry heavyweights-including VNU, in cooperation with IBM, and Information Resources Inc. in cooperation with Acxiom-are also developing enhanced ability to provide continuously updated marketing-mix analytics.

Research firms are mum about which clients are using the models and how.