The Limits of Big Data: What Advertisers and their Clients Need to Remember About The Uses of Data

In an August 7th, 2013 post to the Harvard Business Review, Christian Madsbjerg and Mikkel B. Rasmussen (senior partners at the consultancy firm ReD Associates) write about the problems that the advertising business is encountering in adapting to the era of Big Data.

Here are some key excerpts:

Historically, the best advertising has been generated by inspired writers with a sense of where the culture is headed:

"Great marketing and advertising campaigns are exquisitely attuned, not to past behavior, nor to individualized needs and desires, but to the larger cultural zeitgeist."

And the limits of Big Data are rarely acknowledged by the advocates for today's algorithms:

"Despite what we are told, data is never objective, never free of bias. Kate Crawford, researcher at Microsoft, calls this problem "Big Data fundamentalism — the idea that with larger data sets, we get closer to objective truth." Aggregator sites, seemingly objective, are designed with built-in assumptions. They assume that the frequency of your clicks is the same as your level of interest or the degree to which the material "moves" you. But only our fellow humans will ever really understand what we care about. Our care — our deeply felt investment in the world — is always context dependent."

So what's the prognosis for Big Data?

"To address a more complex problem frame, you need a more complex piece of technology. In these situations, an algorithmic business model based on Big Data analytics — if this, then that — is not going to provide you with the greater insight or perspective. It certainly isn't going to create a strategy or a campaign. For any of the above, you are going to need the human mind."

Thanks to Tan Siok Siok for the link.

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