If Content Is King, Data Should Be Its Knight in Shining Armor

Opinion: The only way to win is by understanding your audience

Having data be the producer puts creators in a situation where everything streamlined with the audience in mind peepo/iStock

Netflix. Hulu. Amazon. YouTube. Facebook. Snapchat. Instagram. Linear television.

The entertainment industry is at an explosive impasse. We are at the point where we’re being exposed to, and consuming, more content than we have eyeballs for. And it’s putting advertisers into an existential crisis.

Streaming platforms like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu are not only disrupting the linear landscape by playing to cord-cutters, but they’re changing the formats for how advertisers create their ads. Traditionally, TV ads found the most success at 30-seconds in length. Of course, this has changed: The average ad exposure on these platforms is only one second, and the impact is incredibly low compared to how things were.

And I’m seeing more and more each day that the majority don’t know how to build up any sort of presence with their consumers because of this disruption. Now more than ever, brands need to win back consumer trust.

Already at a disadvantage, the only way to win is by understanding your audience and having the wherewithal to cater to them. With streaming platforms, consumers are being conditioned to be given the media they want, when they want it, and on the devices they want it on. Providing consumers with a media experience that they want, with relevant, engaging and entertaining content is part of this equation. The other part is that four-letter word my contemporaries love to use: Data.

We live in an age of transparency, where being open and honest with how things work is paramount. When used properly, data brings this to us. For entertainment and creating content, it takes the mystery out of the green-light process and puts some real science behind it. If brands dig deep upfront and perform a full data audit to inform creative, it gives them a distinct advantage against their competition.

This means completely recontextualizing the process of how creative is being developed and where and how audiences are being delivered content. The big streaming platforms have been doing this for years. Netflix knows what you like and what you’re looking for, and it ingests this data to provide users with personalized recommendations.

The future of our industry relies on this same principle.

We—advertisers—have been doing this with social media for some time now. A pixel placed on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, etc. is placed within ads on the application and then is able to safely and anonymously learn more about a user to determine what they like. But more than that, we need to push this data upstream and inform creative before it hits the distribution cycle. Flat creative will always be just that. The goal is to push creativity to new heights and win hearts and minds.

Content and campaigns should be developed with this in mind. By safely tracking an audience’s content consumption habits, the power of artificial intelligence recommendation tools is given back to the brand. A whole new path is forged with this in mind.

While today’s influx of content can be overwhelming and oversaturated, having data be the producer puts creators in a situation where everything is streamlined with the audience in mind. This is how brands will win in the Netflix era. The time is now: Do not be left behind.

Morgan Harris is co-founder and CEO of data-driven creative agency Tonik+.