How Science Is Impacting the World of Digital Marketing

Creative and practical in celestial harmony

We often group advertisers into two buckets: the creative and the practical. But is one group really an extension of the other?

Consider this analogy: if you went to the beach this summer, you probably spotted seashells and thought that the pattern on each shell was beautiful and unique – that seashells are one of nature’s ways of being creative. However, certain shells (like the nautilus shell) present one of the finest natural examples of a logarithmic spiral; a special kind of spiral curve, common in nature, where the size of the spiral increases but its shape is unaltered with each successive curve. 

We think of advertising like a nautilus shell – it has elements of beauty and creativity, but based upon trends and logical patterns. When we see eye-grabbing, creative content online, we often think that some artistic savant dreamed up this idea and just ran with it. Maybe they did. But more and more often, we’re seeing creative partner with their more logical colleagues in order to identify and then reach their ideal audience. 

We grew up with science teachers telling us that “science was all around us.” Now in our professional lives the “art of science” is resurrecting itself in new ways. Here are three other ways where science is impacting our daily work: 

Data Analysis

Today, many brands are making tremendous advancements in analyzing “big data,” leveraging the exploding quantity of digital content found in email, social media, site traffic, customer records, etc. Advertisers that were once evaluating three to four different consumer attributes, for example age, sex and income, are now examining thousands of attributes and millions of attribute combinations. 

Analyzing these massive quantities of data demands a scientific approach – continuously learning and fine-tuning through gathered market intelligence. It’s no longer trial and error; systems are automated and advertisers use those systems to gradually sharpen their targeting, placement and measurement programs.

The ongoing pursuit of perfection is a scientific exercise practiced by technical experts and advertising experts alike. For advertisers, the pursuit of successful, high performing campaigns is supported by data availability, analysis and insight. 

Genetic Mapping

Massive amounts of data, combined with state-of-the-art computing power has allowed for one of the most interesting and direct ties to the world of science – behavioral monitoring. In fact, some technology providers are helping advertisers’ model user behavior in the same way that the Human Genome Project, a large-scale international scientific research project, approaches modeling. 

Specifically, there are 23,000 genes for any human and each person has or doesn’t have various genes that determine specific characteristics such as appearance, personality traits, risk of disease and more. As a result, there are billions of possible genetic combinations – making each person unique.

With advanced technologies, today’s tech and science savvy advertisers are seeing a strong tie between genetics and the seemingly boundless combinations of individual consumer attributes. For example, advertisers are now looking beyond high-level attributes to a consumer’s level of education, city or town of residency, time and day of browsing/purchase and beyond.

Similar to DNA formation, a consumer’s personal, behavioral and environmental data shape potential purchasing behavior which can be translated into consumer DNA. This level of insight can help brands target consumers who are most likely to respond to a campaign and reach the consumers that are most likely to benefit from their product.

Job Skills

The influx of science has created a potential hiring dilemma for ad agencies and operations. On one hand, we have a deluge of available data, plus the computing power to analyze and uncover information we never thought possible. This requires professionals that are tech-savvy, analytical and experimental. 

On the other hand, we have a digital environment where lasting impressions favor the creative; where one brilliant idea can explode across the Internet and create a viral campaign. This requires the skill set of the expressive, colorful and savvy.

As a result, digital advertising can often fall into one camp or the other—focused on data or focused on the creative. Now that science is making an impact in the advertising world, organizations are considering should they hire and train employees that are masters of both worlds, or hire experts and hope the two departments can work together in harmony. With either approach, organizations need to realize that science is playing a larger role within the walls of their company and within the industry as a whole. 

While the digital marketing industry was often thought as the refuge of creative, we’re now seeing two worlds collide. If you failed high school biology, there is still hope. While there is probably a greater emphasis on data, trends and “scientific” analysis within your own organization, creative is still vital to distinguishing brands online. If digital marketers can accept that the world is changing, they will realize the harmony in assimilating the foundations of science with the beauty of the creative. 

OPS Macro-level changes are coming, and you can sieze the opportunities that follow at OPS NY. This event will bring together digital advertising leaders and ops professionals to discuss a rapidly evolving landscape and develop strategies for monetization. Register today for OPS NY which will be held Oct. 4, 2012.