Dating and advertising. Both are booming in the online realm—flipping the traditional relationship and ad stories upside down. With that, our insights, actions and results are also evolving. Understanding the numerical and emotional elements of human behavior is imperative in both the online dating world and digital advertising, as machines alone are not enough to bring out the power of big data. The human element is necessary across both phenomena. The data’s ultimate value is determined by the ability to make the right decisions from it, whether it’s for a potential date or a potential consumer.
Take eHarmony’s massive store of data. More than 20 million registered users have answered the site’s 258 questions based on 29 "dimensions of compatibility." Just a portion of that data from a fraction of those users results in thousands of billions of potential matches. That’s a ton of first dates! The same principle applies in targeting consumers on the Internet. Analyzing billions of attributes and media habits across all digital channels gives advertisers more opportunities to accurately target messages against audiences that have a significantly higher likelihood to engage. But how do we determine the best matches?
Dating or advertising, we see the similarity. Collecting data is step No. 1. Step No. 2? Doing something with it. All the data in the world means nothing unless you have those two elements working together. Fortunately for daters (and advertisers), technology exists to process the information, and humans are there to make data more actionable; pairing talented analysts with cutting-edge technology generates the best performance.
As a rule, it’s hard to understand the full picture from one specific source—usually ourselves. We construct lists of “must have’s”, weigh our options and conduct searches, but our hearts don’t always work like that. We make subconscious choices based upon deep-rooted preferences.
The only way to understand desire is to see how a person actually behaves. For example, an online dater may indicate a preference for women who enjoy running and indie music, but you may find that running is actually what matters most after analyzing who he or she interacts with. The more you understand an individual—i.e., expressed wants, paired with actual behavior—the greater the power of the data and the more likely you are to match him or her with the right person.
Online advertising is parallel with expressed-interest data (i.e., from Facebook) and behavioral data (i.e., display and video). Social data is generally accurate—people are usually honest regarding gender, age and interests. However, the exception to fully accurate data is that people may omit certain information. For example, your profile may state you like indie music while you simultaneously watch pop icon videos. Display and video data is behaviorally based. Each channel provides incremental insights about users, and combining the data creates an in-depth audience profile, enabling advertisers to match the right consumer with the right ad.
And, of course, timing is everything. People are different, having different needs in different contexts. Timing is critical in two important ways. First—because we are emotional creatures—mood (or time-based preferences) often drives decision making. We can infer mood from past individual or group behavior. In online dating, more emails are written on Sunday than any other day, so matches delivered on Sunday are more likely to be read and evaluated. People have time and are in the right frame of mind to send out introductions on the weekend, so matches delivered midweek may not be given their proper due. Similarly, in digital advertising, a pizza advertisement delivered at 11 a.m. will have better success than one delivered at 11 p.m. Understanding time-based preferences is crucial in getting the right message in front of the right person.
Secondly, people behave differently in different contexts. Imagine how a co-worker would describe you versus your family. They may all have valid impressions because you share different parts of your personality in varying contexts. If they could compare notes, they would likely make a more informed decision regarding your preferences.
The same is true in dating and cross-channel advertising. Triangulating information from different contexts and modes of expression provides more accurate estimates of people’s preferences. In advertising, we use algorithms to help process what users are doing across each channel and discover patterns based on time of day, device and other factors. When analyzed by a team of experts, incredible insights can be derived that make it possible for an advertiser to connect with consumers and quickly meet campaign objectives.
Like dating, big data can be overwhelming. Finding the right relationship or target audience is easiest when you consider what’s likely to generate positive outcomes. Real-time decisions, utilizing insights and analyzing volumes of data will connect advertisers to consumers who are going to adore their brands.
The human element. The bigger picture. When it comes to advertising, there’s no greater love story.
Patrick Giordani is head of business analytics and optimization at Adconion Direct, a cross-channel digital advertising company.