Faaez Samadi
Nov 10, 2017

Data lakes, thinking small, and other insights from AdAsia

Takeaways relating to AI, big and small data, marketing intuition, millennials, F1, failing fast and more.

Data lakes, thinking small, and other insights from AdAsia

Highlights from day two of AdAsia in Bali Thursday, with insight from Kaleidoko and a branding expert. Scroll down for day one highlights. 

AI needs ‘data lakes’

The promise of AI is well-known, but Dean Donaldson of Kaleidoko said there are still big issues with unleashing its potential. The biggest is the walled gardens in which our data online currently lives.

“I am yet to see an ad on YouTube or Facebook that actually targets me with something I need, and not something I bought four weeks ago,” he said.

While we’re all relentlessly sent recommendations from the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook, which are meant to be personalised, Donaldson says they are ineffective right now because our different online selves don’t interact.

“I’ll crowdsource on Facebook, then search on Google, and likely buy it on Amazon,” he said. “To fully understand personalisation, you need the data from all three points, but they’re in these walled gardens. That’s the industry’s problem.”

The solution, potentially, is to create online “data lakes” in which all our data can be collated and aggregated to provide intelligent personalisation. “Something [like this] needs to happen for AI to actually be useful [for personalisation],” Donaldson said.

These could be created by existing brands or, more likely, new companies that protect the user by using a blockchain infrastructure, so that consumers are in control of their personal data.

Big data? You mean small data

Branding expert Martin Lindstrom said even more important than big data is what he calls ‘small data’: the seemingly insignificant feelings and actions consumers make that advertisers are now ignoring in favour of numbers and data-driven analysis.

“Today we have tonnes of data but no information,” he said. That’s because right now, brands “care more about the correlation rather than causation,” about connecting the dots between all the data they collect, instead of examining “the reason why”, which lies in human behaviour.

“This is the number one problem we’re seeing right now with data,” Lindstrom claimed. “We’re losing our instincts as human beings, instincts we’ve developed over hundreds of years, we’re throwing them in the garbage because we don’t trust ourselves anymore, we only trust big data.”

In world where, thanks to mobile technology, people don’t get bored anymore, Lindstrom said creativity is dying. “As an ad agency, how much time do you spend with your customer’s customer?” he asked. “We’ve lost contact with reality. We sit behind a computer screen, which is a one-way mirror. We don’t meet people any more. We don’t talk to people.”

This over-reliance on big data and dying creativity must be countered by reflecting more on human behaviour and using ‘small data’ to inform branding decisions, Lindstrom proposed. Once the framework is made, then big data can help to drive a branding project.

“Most accurate forecasts rely on big and small data,” he said. “Branding is no longer a logo; it’s culture, [and] creativity is to have courage in the sea of big data irrelevance.”

Day 1

Focus on communities, not millennials

The term millennial is leading marketers in the wrong direction, futilely looking for ways to connect with a group that can range from 18 to 35 years old and has myriad different likes, dislikes and habits, particularly across a region as diverse as Asia-Pacific.

Instead, said Arun Kumar, head of digital marketing at online marketplace Carousell, marketers should focus on the communities within the ‘millennial’ segment that are most relevant to their brands, and be aware that their behaviour could change significantly across markets.

“We learned that motivations to sell vary market to market,” he explained. “In Singapore and Malaysia, users are coming on [to Carousell] to sell pre-loved items for extra cash. But in Hong Kong, space constraints motivate selling, while in Indonesia it’s ‘treasure hunting’—buying one of a kind, vintage items. In Australia and Taiwan, responsible consumption is a big factor in selling.

“It’s about targeting youth, who are mostly online and very active on mobile. But as marketers, we just want to give them a label.”

Revie Sylviana, business development director at Line Indonesia, agreed the millennial tag doesn’t allow for consumer behaviour “that can be hugely different”, while Indonesian YouTube comedian Sacha Stevenson said she “never use[s] the term millennial, as it’s irrelevant”.

She explained that while she and many of her fellow YouTube personalities have subscriber groups that are roughly 75 percent millennial, they vary wildly in what they want and expect. “Communities are unique, and I have a really hard time explaining this to ad agencies,” she said.

Winning the F1 race with gaming

For a sport that has been struggling to grow its fan base in recent years, F1 racing boss Mark Gallagher and former F1 racer David Coulthard said creating fan experiences through gaming has been a huge success in driving better engagement and growing the sport.

“Data and connectivity are having unusual and exciting effects on our sport,” said Gallagher. “The changing media landscape is creating new experiences from data for fans.” He highlighted F1’s new e-sports championship, which takes actual race data from the cars and plugs it into the driving games fans play.

“People are now participating much more in the sport and with the teams through gaming,” Gallagher added.

Coulthard said that as driver, he was conscious that he had to “deliver value beyond driving the car” for sponsors, and understood the value of ambassador roles and brand activations for growing both his racing team’s following and the sport’s more widely.

Short-term wins in digital planning

There are only two strategy horizons for Azran Osman Rani, advisor at iFlix and former CEO of AirAsiaX: 30 days and 30 years. Digital-born brands, particularly those at the intersection of technology and content, are just wasting time doing anything else.

“I say 30 years because you need that ultimate long-term, for us it’s 1 billion users,” Rani said. “But there’s no point doing 12-month budgets or plans. You put in so much time and effort defining it, only to find two months in that all your assumptions are out the window.”

With 30 days, Rani said, his teams can “trial, learn, pivot and move on” incredibly quickly, which is critical for digital brands that can be outpaced by rivals all too soon. Having daily meetings creates constant feedback loops that help “to move with speed”.

“It means you can flush out any issues quickly, rather than at a weekly/monthly meeting, which is just far too long for a brand like ours,” Rani said. Most important, however, is creating a risk-taking and innovative approach, and shedding any inferiority complex.

“Just because we’re from small markets in Asia doesn’t mean we’re just me-too followers,” he stated.

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