Predictions for 2012: Data is Everywhere!

From election campaign results to Olympic medal tallies, 2012 is going to be all about data.

Even though a foreboding sense of “data fatigue” seemed to be emerging at the end of 2011, from my analytically-biased point of view, data will once again be on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the coming year. Not, however, as the buzzword  “flavor of the moment”, but as a key component in all digital ad activity.  A few key predictions for 2012:

1. Data becomes the “lead” as opposed to the “follower” in digital media buys.

Data has been the media planner’s best friend for a number of years, helping them decide where to invest their client’s media budget based on the relevant data presented by each publisher’s/network’s sales teams. But as media planners become more and more conversant in data, we’re going to see original, proactive campaign plans based on both structured and dynamic audience composition targets. Media selection will become a secondary consideration.  And, although  pre-constructed “audiences” will still be important, particularly those based on robust branded data sets (such as Nielsen PRIZM clusters), custom segmentation based on performance criteria will lead the way for both DR and branding campaigns.

2. Cookie cutter data will lose traction vs. customized segmentation.

Per the above, advances in the quality of planning as well as innovations in data and audience modeling – based on the combination of first and third party data assets – will drive a new era in digital data targeting. The days of “one size fits all” data will slowly begin to fade.

3. Audience targeting breaks free of the PC.

As data targeting has focused on PC-based advertising to date, 2012 will see the process introduced to other venues, namely mobile devices and addressable TV. As mobile application companies and ad networks seek to accelerate their revenue and create more aggressive business models next year, data will be one of the first places they look. Addressable TV companies will start to come of age as well, as “test budgets” morph into real dollars as data-based audience targeting scales in the coming year.

4. Group buying becomes more refined.

As group buying matures in 2012, the “spray and pray” versions of daily deals and buying groups will have no choice but to implement better, more refined tactics to maintain sales and customers. The group buying companies that will survive 2012 will do so by integrating Geographical, Vertical and Audience driven targeting into their marketing operations in order to compete with declining uptake. As with the early days of online advertising, targeting will be the key for their survival as the novelty of group buying wears off.

5. The digital personnel crunch gets worse.

Online advertising is becoming  further entwined with the hardcore data analytics world, and the demand for smart, ad-savvy mathematicians is growing exponentially. MediaMath’s Joe Zawadzki nailed it – Mad Men are becoming Math Men, and we are short A Few Good Men.  NYC, the hub of the advertising world, will quickly lose traction unless local schools spit out more quants. The new Cornell-Technion partnership can’t come fast enough!

6. The election will be won and lost online.

If social media was a critical component of the Obama victory in 2008, particularly in swing states like Indiana and Florida, it will be even more critical in 2012. Audience targeting, obsessive community building, targeted tweets and rich candidate video experiences will define the 2012 election. The candidate that can deliver the correct mix of these ingredients will take home the big prize.

From politics to ecommerce, it’s clear that in 2012 data may not make the same headlines it did in 2011, but it will be a key part of every story.

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