Today’s ad agencies: the new Mad Men of data


What does a day in the life of an ad agency look like? In Don Draper’s Mad Men world, it involved creative brainstorming and, yes, a lot of smoking and drinking at the office. Much has changed since the 1960s. With the exponential increase in digital data, today’s agencies are faced with a Big Data dilemma.

In addition to their creative roles, agencies – and modern marketers – are acquiring customer data from multiple sources: Internal and external data, data from their CRM systems and social media chatter. They’re mining partner, supplier, public and commercial data to get a more accurate and single view of the customer. And they are looking at something Gartner defines as “dark data” -- the data gathered from blogs, texts, clickstreams, speech, location and context. All of this adds up to equal mind-blowing amounts of data. But when agencies – and marketers alike – focus on the growing availability of that data and not just the sheer magnitude, several opportunities rise to the surface.

At a recent conference with some of the leading advertising agencies in New York, I heard a few areas where these companies need to put this Big Data to work in order to:

  1. Enhance the customer experience
  2. Segment customers
  3. Automate campaign reports

Enhance the customer experience

Some of the ad agencies at the event lamented about the manual processes and the data challenges that have slowed them down in the past. With the tremendous growth of data, many of them are stuck using outdated products to mine, sort and optimize lists and datasets. But the old programs are quickly being replaced by modern technology that allows them to address online and offline customer challenges such as historical data, CRM data, enrichment data and current session data. The knowledge gained from this influx of data also helps marketers build an individual behavior record over time. At the end of the day, the phrase “It’s all about the customer,” means companies must act faster and smarter to make and keep connections.

Segment customers

The next logical step in modernization is taking the new ways of consuming this Big Data and applying it to current and potential customers. Television might show brainstorming for the perfect mass-media campaign as the only activity done by ad agencies. But today’s agencies need to be multi-faceted and show they are true partners with their clients for a variety of marketing activities, including customer segmentation.

With decreased budgets and resources, the answer isn’t to increase the amount of campaigns, but rather make them more effective. This can be achieved by better targeting the customers within a campaign. Because all prospects aren’t created equal, they will respond differently to your outreach -- some will respond to email, others will respond to a digital advertising and you might have some that will only respond to an in-person meeting. Understanding how to connect with your targets is critical.

If email marketing is your campaign vehicle of choice, don’t just blast a single email with a gated offer to all of your existing customers. It’s much more effective to send a series of targeted emails -- such as a lead nurturing campaign -- with unique content for each segment. Measure success by clicks and conversions, and make changes based on those results.

Automate campaign reports

The third challenge facing agencies today is automating campaign reports for clients. The ideal here is to use a comprehensive marketing automation solution, but no matter the approach a key starting point is to focus on data quality and data integration. Both are important because data must be pulled, integrated and cleansed from many different sources – many of them big data sources. For maximum usefulness, the reports need to be consumable by clients.

Again, technology can play an important role here. Finding a solution that is powerful enough to extract data from virtually unlimited sources but is also robust enough to analyze what is contained in the data is a must.  With the SAS Data Management solution you can access your data no matter where it’s stored.  That data is then prepared for reporting and distribution using SAS BI reporting solutions.  The real benefit comes in automating the entire process from beginning to end.

How to channel Don Draper with data

Even if you aren’t pitching a national media campaign to Montgomery Ward in a smoke-filled room, like Don Draper might, or to Target in a modern, glass-walled conference room, seeing the opportunities that come from the availability of big data can be a powerful asset.

Pair the data with cutting-edge technology that lets you mine social media data to quickly determine the most important topics for a client’s brand. Use ad hoc exploration and visualizations to quickly identify key brand associations. Score sentiment by topic to understand exactly why customers love or hate your brand. Produce clear evidence why the client should choose your recommended marketing strategy. Once you do this, you’ll be well on your way to making a mark on Madison Avenue.

Thank you for following. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.


About Author

Diana Dimaiuta

Campaigns and Events Specialist

I am a Campaign and Event Specialist at SAS. I've worked at SAS for almost 18 years in various different roles. I have definitely found my niche with Marketing and love all the different aspects of marketing. I work with the Communications, Content and Entertainment Business Unit for several years. I help with the planning and execution of our plan and campaigns. Follow me on Twitter at Diana1003 or connect via LinkedIn at


  1. Scott Batchelor on

    Diana, I love your point about targeted outreach. I recently received a promotional Spiderman direct mail piece from the USPS. It was encouraging me to send packages with their easy-to-use shipping service. But I don't use USPS when I send things. If they would check their database, they would see there aren't any packages from my return address in the last 12 months (at least). Instead of sending everyone the same piece, wouldn't it be better to send me something that I am interested in, like print-at-home stamps?

    As customers, we respond to things that we use or do. Marketers that get this will connect better with this customer, for sure!

    • Diana Dimaiuta
      Diana Dimaiuta on

      Scott, I agree with you. I'm sure that's happened to most of us. Getting something sent to us that we don't want, are not interested in or have never or rarely used in the past. That's where Customer Intelligence and the solutions from SAS can help these organizations to better target and segment their customers. If they can do this, they can gain customer satisfaction as well decreasing their spend on marketing campaigns and ultimately increase their revenue.

  2. Pingback: From Mad Men to Math Men - Customer Analytics

Leave A Reply

Back to Top