Starmark, Carnival Cruise Lines, OMD Multicultural and CNN Offer Key Insights Into How Data Informs Content With Better Audience Understanding

What: Carnival Cruise Line’s Christine Esteve, OMD Multicultural’s Ana Crandell, and CNN’s Seth Holladay kicked off the twelfth edition of Portada Miami with a panel entitled How Data and Content Continue to Fuel the Evolving World of Advertising.
Why it matters: Data continues to drive marketers’ efforts to gain the best and most granular understanding of markets and consumers, but Portada’s panelists offered some surprising back-to-basic advice as they enlightened the audience about the rapidly changing data and advertising landscape.

Data, and more of it, continues to guide strategy and content for media companies like CNN and brand marketers such as Carnival Cruise Lines. But participants in Portada Miami’s kickoff panel How Data and Content Continue to Fuel the Evolving World of Advertising had some surprisingly non-technical advice for their audience.

“You have to understand what you are trying to achieve. Then you have to find the data to support that,” panelist Andrew W. Russo, VP of Data Science at Starmark, advised the audience.

“It’s still about who, when, where, how, and what. I always ask: what is your objective when you start a project?”

Carnival Cruise Line’s VP of Ecommerce Cristine Esteve offered similar back-to-basics advice, noting that marketers sometimes make the mistake of using data that is drawn from samples that are not truly representative of the target audience they are trying to reach.

“It is imperative to know the sample from which the data is being sourced to be sure it is representative of the full breadth of the U.S. Make sure that the sample accurately represents against the segment you are planning,” she advised.

Esteve also emphasized the importance of having clear goals and objectives before wading into the complexity of using data to drive content.

You have to understand what you are trying to achieve. Then you have to find the data to support that.

OMD Multicultural’s Group Account Director Ana Crandell advised not to let the science obscure the importance of creativity in content creation. “The infusion of data has placed most of the focus on the science, but we as an industry need to swing the pendulum back to the artistic part as well.”

A/B Testing Alive and Well

A/B testing of content is alive and well at Carnival Cruise Lines, which uses it hundreds of times every day, according to Esteve, as it guides the use of headlines, product positioning, and how to build content that has a broad reach.

“Because of the complexity of all the data, and the fact that we can personalize content, we do a lot of A/B testing so that we are specifically talking to the different personal segments.

It is imperative to know the sample from which the data is being sourced.

A/B testing comes before machine learning, said CNN’s Seth Holladay, VP of Digital Research & Analytics for CNN. “Before you run a marathon, you have to be able to run a 5K.”

Insight: How CNN Mixes Data and Content

Panel moderator Guillermo Arduino, CNN Anchor and Correspondent for Encuentro
CNN en Español 
drilled down with questions aimed at understanding how CNN uses data to inform its content, audience understanding, and editorial strategy.

CNN collects data to both inform its editorial decisions and to give advertisers the most granular view of CNN’s wide and widely varied audience of viewers.

“We need to figure out what data to collect so that we can handle those dueling objectives,” Seth Holladay said.

CNN collects “tons of data” based on its audience’s viewing choices. “They are giving us tons of signals coming in the forms of what people are clicking on, where they are not clicking, what is causing them to leave the site, so we’re looking across the consumer touch points that we have. Then we connect this with our editors to inform their decisions on what they program, what content we program, where we put our resources,” Holladay said.

How Data Drives Content

Segmentation and statistical models are required to take data gathered from cookies and create a richer, more accurate knowledge of the target audience, according to Starmark’s Andrew Russo.

“We look for those statistical nuances to build content. I do a lot of work with digital marketing so I am looking at cookie data but it doesn’t tell me everything. We need to understand more about who we are targeting,” Russo said.

OMD Multicultural uses data to “inform content and develop the most important pieces of creative that then represent a perfect match to influence the consumer,” said Ana Crandell.

OMD also uses data on the “back end” to then validate that its creative strategies are working.

But creative still requires an artistic component, she emphasized. “Remember that the practice of media planning is both an art and a science.”

Mark A. Browne

Mark A. Browne is Portada's Marketing Innovation Editor. He is a bilingual (English-Spanish) writer, media relations manager, and content creation professional with an established record providing journalism, copywriting and analytical content services to major publishers, PR agencies and businesses in the United States, Latin America and Europe. His award-winning career as a reporter and editor includes daily and weekly newspaper experience and free-lance writing for major print and online publications.

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