MEC’s Theresa LaMontagne on the Importance of Analytics & Insight in Media Planning

Theresa_LaMontagne_2012Theresa LaMontagne  is the Managing Partner, Senior Practice Lead, Analytics & Insight at MEC, one of the world’s leading media agency networks. Theresa joined MEC in 2010 as Managing Director, spearheading the new A&I practice that combined and integrated the agency’s media research, digital analytics, data integration and modeling teams to create on and offline continuity in data, analytics and insights. The Makegood recently spoke with Theresa about the growing importance of A&I as “digital” becomes a part of everything.

The Makegood: Theresa, you joined MEC’s A&I team back in 2010. What do you like most about your job and what are the biggest challenges today?

MEC has long recognized the need to place Analytics at the core of the Planning and Buying process and has an amazing roster of clients who are looking to continually push the envelope.  For me that translates into a culture of innovation that is very unique to us as an agency.  To fuel that innovation we are challenged with recruiting the best and brightest Insights professionals within a very tight talent market.

The Makegood: What is the key learning from MEC’s new book ‘Analytics and Insight: How A&I Can Grow Your Business’?

Research and Analytics is no longer a “nice to have” it plays a pivotal role in unlocking the most value from a client’s media investment.  With examples across Discovery, Data and Technology services all the way through to evaluation it also highlights a breadth of agency services that would have been unheard of just a few short years ago.

The Makegood: What are the best ways to unlock insights that win customers and grow client business on a daily basis?

Our business is about collaboration.  Machines can parse and sort data but insights are fostered through close partnership between the Analytics team, the Planning team and of course the client.  The more we understand about the business as a whole the richer the insights that we can generate are.  For that reason, we have combined our research, digital analytics, data integration and modeling teams, to ensure on and offline continuity in data, analytics and insights.  Moreover, we have increased efficiencies by embedding our data science professionals within the media planning and buying teams, delivering a strategic and integrated approach for clients.

The Makegood: In your book you describe best practice examples. Can you elaborate on three projects and explain what made them successful?

Across the board, the most successful projects share some common elements.  The first is a very focused question that we set out to answer.  The second is a close partnership with our clients and the third is not being afraid to think outside the box and try the unconventional.

One example of a project that leveraged MEC’s A&I consultancy services to really fuel strategic insight across the brand is our global work with Xerox. In 2011, Xerox was interested in understanding how their Small Medium Enterprise (SME) target audience– would-be purchasers of their Office Business Suite – bought office equipment.  MEC and Xerox instigated a qualitative and quantitative research study called Bottleneck® that explored the purchase pathway and the role of communication.  The data was analyzed and statistically modeled to deliver in-depth analysis of the target audience, their barriers and drivers and the journey steps to purchasing.   Initially focused on the UK market, the project went on to influence the entire global organization, shifting their overall marketing communications approach across Europe, through value proposition messaging, US advertising briefs and product design globally.

Another great example is the work we have done with Scotts Miracle-Gro on a customized business intelligence dashboard and analytics solution that provides Scotts a much clearer and detailed understanding of their business drivers at a market level. The system centrally houses all critical data, providing a near real-time view of ROI and media activity across all divisions that enables faster and better decision making.

We also launched CookieCutter™ this year, which is a manifestation of our consultative approach to A&I. CookieCutterTM, our proprietary digital attribution modeling platform, was built to cut through massive amounts of cookie-level data to uncover the true value of digital media for marketers. Almost two years in the making, the platform processes millions of cookie-level records sourced from a client’s various digital data sources in a matter of seconds. The data is then fed into our modeling environment and the results reveal which touchpoints are most important during the consumer’s journey through the digital media mix, while controlling between both offline and online channels.  This launch is unique in that it brought digital attribution modeling into a media agency environment, effectively centralizing data management and laying the foundation for a more holistic media planning process for clients.

The Makegood: How do you determine and evaluate the consumer path to purchase and what tips can you provide on developing communications along this path?

Most path to purchase research focuses on consumers once they become actively engaged in the purchase process.  Understanding that brand perceptions are created over time, often long before a purchase trigger occurs, MEC developed a new heuristic.  Our holistic approach takes into the account not only the triggers to make a purchase but the upstream perceptions that drive preference for a brand/product/service.  This enables us to balance communications to drive both short term and longer term return on investment for our clients.

The Makegood: How should companies determine and evaluate what piece of data makes sense for their business?

In this age of data abundance it’s easy to slip into analysis paralysis and to confuse data consolidation with having a data strategy.  If you stay focused on the question(s) that you are trying to answer then it’s much easier to ensure that you gather the right inputs to develop an actionable solution.

The Makegood: What changes will we see coming in the next two years in terms of analytics, insights, and consumer behavior?

The concept of ‘big data’ continues to challenge most organizations.  More than a buzz phrase, the rampant digitization of so much of our lives and business practices has at the same time led to an unprecedented production of data.  At the same time, the term ‘internet of things’ has been thrown about with vigor for a few years now.  It refers to the complete digitization of every item and the interconnectedness between those items and results.

While the hype probably does still outstrip the reality, we are seeing more and more industries adding digital technology into their products and services, and together with advances in cloud computing services and business intelligence practices and software, we are at the beginning of a time where there’s a little bit of digital inserted into everything.  It’s this development that is one of many reasons why the term ‘digital’ is beginning to become somewhat redundant, as the definition will eventually encompass all media and channels.

This has huge implications for Analytics as the industry must continue to adapt to keep up with changes in consumer behavior.

The Makegood: Thank you, Theresa