The Provocateur: A match made in data

  • POV’s
  • January 29, 2024
  • Stephan Bruneau

Choreograph, the data and technology organization that powers media planning and activation across GroupM, and Google have recently launched Live Audiences, the latest venture in a long-standing data and tools partnership. A leap on from the standard platform-side data tool, Live Audiences integrates rich aggregated consumer data from Google and YouTube into the Choreograph insights platform, via Google’s Audience Insights API. Media planners can use it in combination with all of Choreograph’s data sources to create more effective audience plans for clients.

These complex tech projects raise as many questions as they answer, built as they are for a future that changes daily. In this case, questions that are shaping our industry – data ownership vs data access, the role of agencies vs platforms, and how AI will upend everything. In discussion with my counterpart Ryan Stonehouse, Director of Global Video & YouTube Solutions at Google, here’s how the future looks, for today at least.

Data ownership vs data integration

I do think there is a shift in attitude over data ownership. If your client is data-rich by the nature of their business, like online retailers, then it makes sense to collect, clean, organise and make the most of that data. But that’s not the case for all our clients.

As an agency, it’s not so much whether we own data or not that makes a difference to our clients. What matters is that we can access the data we need to do the best job, to create the best insights to fuel the best strategies and the best implementations, as fast as possible. We don’t want to be constrained by the data that we own because that would limit what we can do for clients. Sometimes the best data will be a partner’s.

Live Audiences is a great example of this. It lives in the Choreograph insights platform, where all agency work happens daily across 80-plus markets and all disciplines from client leadership to planning and commerce. One of the main reasons for integrating this data was to compensate for the huge fragmentation of the data and tech landscape – rather than sending our planners to dozens of different destinations, we made the strategic decision to work instead with key partners and bring them in from the outside. Google’s behavioural data is unique; used in an integrated way with other data sources it becomes even more powerful.

As Ryan puts it: “Our new audiences API is aggregating billions of anonymous signals across Search and YouTube. Putting this into a tool would be one thing, but we know that data integration is the next level, hence the move inside the Choreograph insights platform, giving direct access to deeper and more robust audience insights and data signals to drive better campaign results.

“I like the analogy of handing an instrument to someone who knows how to pick it up and play it; the notes make sense to them. It’s a huge opportunity for Choreograph to be the value-add to the based aggregated data – that’s a role we can’t necessarily play.”

It’s early days but the signs are promising. In one use case we worked with a coffee creamer brand who wanted to engage with younger people. Live Audiences helped us uncover lifestyle attributes that correlated with younger coffee drinkers, were unique to them and included an eight times more targetable interest segment. It gives us the ability to dig much deeper into a brief and find a wider variety of relevant, targetable segments that don’t overlap.

Agencies vs platforms (agencies and platforms)

As Ryan points out, there’s much debate about the evolving roles of platforms and agencies: “For us it’s about figuring out the best way to work together and building technologies that are ‘companions’ to what’s happening in the agency ecosystem; that’s very important.”

So perhaps it’s more productive to think about ‘and’ rather than ‘vs’. Live Audiences is a platform/agency collaboration based on a trust we started to build several years ago with the reach curves API from YouTube. In terms of co-creating products, that trust is now really precious because it allows us to go faster and go further. Plus, the project is a win-win for both parties. Choreograph gets to make faster and better-informed audience decisions for clients; Google increases the visibility of its data and products upstream in our planning process and ultimately sees better campaign executions in its ecosystem.

Ryan: “One thing I’ll add is that these partnerships require strong technical teams who can work together. YouTube and Choreograph are big companies, each with their own technical limitations and data structures, each built on different systems. Having highly capable tech teams on both sides of the fence was a big part of our success.”

AI-powered media planning

I would love to see a future where we can use AI to leverage Google’s immense data and understanding of consumer behaviours. We’ve talked about accessing not owning the data – clearly we can’t access all Google’s data and that’s where AI can really play a role.

For example, rather than creating an audience myself using some Google data, I would love to be able to put an audience brief into a Google AI engine, for that engine to leverage all the data Google has access to and deliver a much more precise profile of my target audience in its ecosystem, rather than a pre-packaged, generic one. It would be safe from a privacy point of view because there would be no data exchange – leveraging the best of data without accessing the data. Everyone wins in that situation.

Ryan: “I’m spending a lot of time thinking about how we should structure data in readiness for these kinds of opportunities. I believe AI has the ability to transform nearly everything that we’re doing procedurally in the media and marketing business, but in my view, it hinges on our ability to get the right training data, in particular a better way of quantifying outcomes and the value of interactions with customers.

“At the same time it’s crucial that we consider the balance between AI and human insight, which is essential to combine the art and the science of marketing. I don’t think that’s going away anytime soon.”

Stephan Bruneau is President, Insights and Planning Product at GroupM’s Choreograph.