How Marketing Teams Lost Control and How They Can Take It Back
“The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine.”
– Victor Frankenstein,
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the “doctor” set out to answer the ultimate question, only to create a monster.
He worked tirelessly to discover what makes life tick and to achieve divine mastery over it. Unfortunately, he failed to consider the wider effects his actions could have.
With the marketing world becoming more data-centric, digital media teams find themselves in the doctor’s shoes—building their own monsters in their quest to discover what makes their marketing tick and how to achieve mastery of it.
But, similar to Dr. Frankenstein, marketing monsters haven’t turned out as expected and haven’t proved capable of providing the answers we’re looking for.
Shelley’s novel ends in tragedy because the goals of the two characters simply weren’t compatible (sorry if that spoils a 200-year-old story for you). The doctor created the monster, but the monster had needs of its own. This gave way to a vicious cycle where each fought, and failed, to get what they needed from the other.
Our problems in digital advertising are akin to those in the story: we’ve built monsters that don’t want what we want. As a result, we also enter an unproductive cycle of fighting, and often failing, to get what we need.
Let’s take a look at the relationship between marketers and their monsters, what is perpetuating this vicious cycle, and why it isn’t working.
. . .
– Victor Frankenstein,
Frankenstein (1931 Film)
What Makes A Marketing Monster?
We’re in the age where data, analytics, algorithms, and platforms are supposed to solve everything. But on the ground, the reality is quite different.
Frankenstein dealt in *ahem* dead body parts, but 21st century marketers fashion their own monsters from digital limbs.
The monster might consist of Google Ads Manager, Facebook Ads Manager, YouTube, native ads, demand side platforms, private programmatic marketplaces, direct media partners—and that’s just a few for buying the ads!
We’ve got ad-buying limbs, limbs to hold the limbs together, limbs to report on what the other limbs are doing, and then there’s the poor marketing team who’s charged with stitching the whole thing together and blasting it with lightning.
It’s no surprise even the experts are bewildered.
Deloitte found 67% of executives & senior managers are not even comfortable just accessing or using data from their tools. Meanwhile, 41% of client-side marketers state they have “difficulty tracking marketing effectiveness and spend”.
We marketers call upon our monster to help us understand our efforts and better control our campaign outcomes, but like Frankenstein’s monster, our own monster has grown out of hand. Rather than helping us achieve our goals, it has desires of its own.
. . .
“You are my creator, but I am your master; Obey!”
– The Monster,
How Your Marketing Monster Controls You
When asked what challenges are most likely to worry client-side marketers, 38% stated “lack of internal resources”. Marketers are notoriously busy and even those with big-name technologies at their fingertips seem to be eternally strapped.
So what’s going on?
Turns out those apparent “solutions” are actually a big part of the problem. Teams look to their systems and stacks for answers, but instead they find themselves perpetually tending to the needs of a monster with endless demands for data and upkeep.
The result of this arrangement is that the needs of the monster must be taken care of first in order for the team to get their real work done.
Gartner found over half of CMOs say their teams spend more time on data collection than they do on analysis. Data may be the very life blood of our monster, but most teams are so focused on being “data-driven” that their data drives them crazy instead.
Moreover, as the advertising industry relentlessly devises new ways to expand our media plans, we’re forced to chase new capabilities, collect more data, and spend ever more time on what our monster needs us to do.
Things clearly aren’t getting any less complicated in the marketing world, and yet our monsters still have us hanging out at the gas station filling up our tanks instead of driving. Worst of all, they seem to think that filling up the tank with as much data as possible is the whole point.
. . .
“Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos… it can give form to dark shapeless substances but cannot bring into being the substance itself.”
– Mary Shelley,
Why Don’t Our Monsters Give Us What We Need?
Piecing together all the data is a necessary, if not messy, first step. But that’s all it is, the first step. After Dr. Frankenstein gathered up dead pieces from the graveyard, he returned to the lab to put the creation together and give it life.
Today’s major analytics and dashboard tools are supposed to do exactly that. But rather than bringing life to data, they indifferently spit out a smattering of tables, charts, and other visualizations.
If it can be built accurately, this information-focused approach is capable of pumping out huge volumes of what is still, in effect, raw material. Alas, the journey is still far from over as these tools leave their customers to shoulder the greater burden of refining that information into something useful.
Scrolling through a dartboard of unorganized facts hasn’t proved to be much more helpful than the pivot tables of yesteryear and doesn’t make media optimization any less challenging.
For instance, a startling 73% of programmatic marketers (who practically invented the term “data-driven advertising”) cite a need for better insights and reporting deliverables from their data sources and analytics.
To better comprehend what makes their marketing tick, teams need to convert their volumes of information into actionable insights that tie into overarching strategic objectives. This will help them develop a deeper understanding of the impacts their efforts make and design inventive plans to achieve their goals.
So how do we sift through the insurmountable mountain of information our monsters throw at us and become insights-focused marketers?
. . .
“I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel.”
– The Monster,
How to Befriend Your Monster
In the 2013 CMO Survey, only 1.9% of marketing leaders reported that their companies had the right talent to leverage marketing analytics.
Remarkably, in 2020 that rating has scarcely budged despite all the new technologies that were supposed to make it a breeze for every team to be data-driven.
Perhaps the Harvard Business Review summed it up best in their title: Why Marketing Analytics Hasn’t Lived Up to Its Promise.
Why hasn’t it? Well, as we’ve seen, an overemphasis on mere data and information hasn’t made life any easier and has distracted us from what we really need—insights.
But there is a battle-tested way for marketing teams to break through their insights roadblock: the thoughtful expertise of, wait for it… human beings.
Silicon Valley would like you to think we’ve reached a place where technology can completely replace human ability, but the truth is, we are just not there yet—at least not in marketing.
Data tools can provide information, but only humans can contextualize that information in such a way that yields meaningful insights, guidance, and effective action.
Like the doctor once again, teams haven’t stepped far enough away from their ergonomic operating tables to grasp how much bigger their own role is than just assembling monster parts.
And while it seems too difficult to find great people, the truth is, it’s much too difficult for people to find what they need to be great—trustworthy insights to help them uncover the secrets to marketing mastery.
“Live, and be happy, and make others so.”
– Victor Frankenstein,
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Take Back Control of Your Monster
Kampaign App gives brands the insights they need, without the heavy-lifting demanded by conventional data-driven “solutions”.
With powerful media capabilities backed by human expertise, we can solve your data, optimization, and media activation challenges to help your strategic objectives come true.
We look forward to hearing from you.