Planning for future uncertainty is a hot boardroom topic amid dramatic changes in customer behavior, shifting media consumption, supply chain challenges, and overall economic upheaval. 

History shows that, in times of disruption, organizational resilience depends on adaptability and decisiveness. Yet many organizations base decision-making on hindsight (understanding what happened) and insight (understanding why it happened). 

In a world plagued with volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA), hindsight and insight are no longer sufficient to accelerate sustainable growth and gain competitive advantage. 

To reimagine how we manage uncertainty and navigate towards accelerated and sustainable growth, organizations need foresight. 

Foresight in a VUCA world

Foresight takes uncertainty and turns it into manageable risk. It considers what is most and least likely to happen in a VUCA world and reveals the signposts and probabilities of them happening. 

Some fascinating examples of foresight already exist. Who would have foreseen, for example, that the Chinese e-commerce platform would outplay its competitor Alibaba by reliably delivering goods when the COVID lockdown hit. While Alibaba struggled to find couriers, used foresight to recruit the right volume of couriers at the right time.

Whether it’s the shift to hybrid working, skyrocketing growth in e-commerce, or chip shortages affecting the supply of new vehicles, VUCA events will continue to affect all organizations for the foreseeable future.

Scenario analysis by McKinsey shows that a single, prolonged supply-side shock would wipe out between 30 and 50 percent of one year’s earnings (EBITDA) for companies in most industries. The same study classified different types of shocks based on their impact, lead time, and frequency of occurrence, ranging from theft and common cyberattacks to pandemics and climatic events such as hurricanes. But knowing which possible events to focus on is not an easy task.  

For L’Oréal, digital transformation via online selling and marketing started in 2013. When the COVID pandemic hit, the company was well positioned to shift ad spend online. L’Oréal had invested in this future lever of growth and it paid off handsomely – Q1 2020 e-commerce revenue grew 53% – at a time of unforeseen market upheaval. 

Diagnosis before cure

But how do you continue to make good decisions and successfully plan in a VUCA world? First, it’s important to understand what types of challenges your organization is likely to face. Before you can cure, you must first diagnose. 

Are you facing: volatility resulting from an unpredictable supply chain? Uncertainty caused by new entrants competing with your products? Complexity due to regulation changes? Or ambiguity raised by not knowing if the current vaccine will protect the population against new variants? Knowing the type of challenge, or combination of challenges, you face is an essential first step.

To make data-informed decisions that accelerate sustainable growth, organizations need faster, smarter, insights that are unified into a single version of the truth to understand what has happened, why it happened, and what to do next.

Foresight is key to a unified version of the truth – it enables decision-makers to war-game and simulate, scenario plan and optimize, identify and track leading indicators, and understand the risk and impact of unlikely events.

A single system for all-round future confidence

At Gain Theory, we use a unified decision-making system that fuses hindsight, insight, and foresight, across all sources and levers of growth, both known and unknown, to identify long-term strategic opportunities and answer near-term tactical performance questions. This system features an arsenal of foresight techniques that can be used depending on the challenge being faced:

 FutureBack Thinking: defining the desired future and then working backwards to identify the potential specific actions and signposts that connect the desired future to the present. For example, setting a target to be net zero carbon by 2030 might involve several potential actions such as planting more trees or swapping to solar power. However, the signposts, such as famine and food shortages, might indicate that planting trees is no longer an option and that we need to switch to solar power as land costs soar. 

• Delphi Method: developed by Project Rand in the 1950s, the method uses a group of experts who anonymously and repeatedly reply to questionnaires about the future, receiving feedback as a statistical representation of the group’s response. The aim is for the group response to converge after each iteration of the questionnaire, ideally resulting in consensus of expert opinion. While the overall accuracy is mixed, the method is used when looking at long-term trends in policy making and technology development.

• War-Gaming: simulating different competitive settings and the impact on consumer demand. For example, the increase in demand for used vehicles during the chip shortage, depending on the duration of the shortage and the actions of competitors.

• Forecasting: projecting future events by taking signals from the past mixed with likely future states caused by internal and external factors and shocks, such as pandemics, international tension, climate change and competitor threats. For example, how will grocery evolve to meet the challenges of rising interest rates and potentially lower demand ?

• Lead Indicators: measurable signals that provide an early warning system or prediction of what the situation could be in the future. For example, new car registrations used to be a reliable lead indicator of economic strength and consumer propensity to spend. But in the face of supply constraints, how reliable is this indicator today?

• Scenario Planning: making assumptions on what the future is likely to be and how your business performance might be affected, for the purpose of creating a more robust strategy. Often scenarios are run under “what if?” assumptions to work out the best possible path. For example, looking at the impact on both short- and long-term sales and profit resulting from pulling all advertising in the final quarter of the year.

 Trend Analysis: collecting qualitative and quantitative information to spot patterns or new trends, and thus paint an indicative picture of what might happen. These trends can often be used later in scenarios. For example, Wunderman Thompson’s The Future 100 forecasts 100 trends to watch in the coming year or GroupM’s This Year Next Year forecast of ad spend, which can be used to augment media response curves in future marketing campaigns.

By fusing hindsight, insight, and foresight, organizations can identify future sources of growth and make more confident decision across all levers of growth. They can also invest in the right data sources, technology, and methods to answer questions around:

• the role of brand equity and customer experience in maintaining price resilience
• the short and long-term impact of investments
• drivers of customer choices and product trade-offs 
• identifying and tracking signals that provide an early warning system
• targeting new audiences based on their motivation
• acquiring new customers in a cookie-less world of walled gardens
• conducting complex multiple test-and-learn experiments at scale
• preventing customer churn
• growing spend from existing customers by making the right recommendations
• judging correctly what is likely to happen in the future.

In a VUCA world, navigating the range of future possibilities to accelerate sustainable growth requires an organization to invest with confidence. Foresight gives us the ability to manage uncertainty and, ultimately, create and tap into future states of consumer demand. 

This is an updated version of an article originally published in Campaign.


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London, November 24th, 2021 – Gain Theory, the global Marketing Effectiveness consultancy that accelerates business growth for ambitious brands, today names Akhila Venkitachalam​ as Senior Partner.

With over 20 years’ experience, Akhila has partnered with global clients in CPG, Financial Services Technology, Fashion, Pharma, Telecom and Retail leveraging data, analytics and marketing effectiveness consulting to guide evidence-based decision making.

As a trusted senior advisor to clients, Akhila has led Marketing Effectiveness programmes and Brand Analytics for brands such as Nestle, Mondelez, PepsiCo, Nationwide, Dyson, HSBC, Unilever and the Department of Health.

Prior to Gain Theory, Akhila led Global Analytics engagements at Kantar where she was responsible for guiding global brands to improve their long and short-term business growth. She also spent a decade at Nielsen’s Advanced Analytics practice ultimately leading Marketing Effectiveness at regional level where she pioneered a digital ROI measurement & optimisation program amongst other initiatives. Across her career, Akhila has guided global brands on various levers of growth: budget setting, forecasting, branding, pricing, promotions, range optimisation and marketing strategy.

In her new role as Senior Partner, Akhila will help clients accelerate growth by fusing hindsight, insight and foresight and by connecting intelligence directly to investment planning and activation.

“As businesses learn to adapt to the new reality post pandemic, there is an increase in demand for connected data intelligence which is insightful, agile and forward looking to help navigate successfully, be distinctive and drive fast paced growth.” said Akhila, “Gain Theory is now at the top of the game in the Marketing Effectiveness space, and I have often admired its world class team, zest for driving results, breadth of capabilities and long-standing strong client partnerships. I am absolutely thrilled to be joining Gain Theory and look forward to collaborating with ambitious clients who are looking to power up with analytics, be inspired and shape their future”.

 “Akhila is an outstanding addition to our team,” said Alan Bloodworth EMEA CEO at Gain Theory “the breadth and depth of her acumen in the Marketing Effectiveness industry will enable our clients to turn business challenges into opportunities. Akhila will play an integral role within the EMEA senior leadership team, ensuring that we continue to deliver Marketing Effectiveness Excellence for our clients in an ever-changing landscape”

NEW YORK, NY – Gain Theory’s Karen Kaufman, Global CSO, has been recognized by Campaign US as a 2021 honoree in the annual 40 Over 40 list.

A true dynamic leader in media, marketing, and advertising, Karen joins an elite group of honorees on this list, lauded for her contributions to the future of marketing effectiveness and data analytics.

A 22-year WPP marketing maven and analytics veteran, Karen’s career began at a San Francisco non-profit working with troubled youth. She leveraged her strengths inspiring people and finding solutions to challenges, long before realizing her ambition to become a Global CSO.

Karen has achieved extraordinary feats through perseverance, brilliance, kindness, and incredible dedication. Her fierce drive breeds success, exemplified through her insatiable desire to influence company growth—Karen has met or exceeded every financial revenue target she’s ever received from business development. This same tenacity stimulates her client engagements, which are built on a solid foundation of trust, securing her several client relationships spanning over a decade.  

Karen’s accomplishments set her apart from peers, underpinned by Gain Theory’s success. Karen’s admirable attributes extend beyond business and client growth in meaningful and impactful ways. A busy Global CSO and champion of feminism in our industry, she devotes time to mentor employees and parent two inquisitive boys. She vocalizes her efforts to shape their life experience, seeing a successful woman in a big company, viewing the world through a lens with endless possibilities for women. She balances her purpose and career thoughtfully with her relationship with her sons at home, knowing the importance for growing men to see women as inspirational role models.

Karen’s unique qualification for this award is reflected through feedback from peers, direct reports, and clients, expressing her impact on brand growth and personal achievements.

“Karen has a natural nurturing style which coupled with her innovative ideas can be extremely inspirational.”

“Her storytelling, visionary ideas are compelling.”

“Karen is the true MVP in the rooms [we] enter.”

We’re thrilled to congratulate Karen for this well-deserved honor.

We’re thrilled to share that Gain Theory is now an official Facebook Marketing Partner. Facebook Marketing Partners are recognized for their ability to help businesses grow today and build for tomorrow through Facebook’s family of apps.

As a badged partner, with demonstrated expertise in campaign management and more, Gain Theory helps build strategies and optimize investments to unlock our clients’ full potential across Facebook apps and services.

As an official Facebook Marketing Partner, we have 24/7 access to advanced Facebook tools, training, and best practices to help clients maximize growth.

How Gain Theory helps Marketers Uncover Insights and Unlock Growth through our Unified Measurement Program

Gain Theory’s Unified Measurement program received top scores by Forrester in their report: “Marketing Measurement and Optimization Solutions, Q1 2020.” The approach provides Marketers with a consistent view of performance for all business drivers, marketing channels and tactics in the short, medium, and long-term. Through a combination of hindsight (what’s working, what’s not) and foresight (what might happen next), we build investment strategies that maximize business growth, and we work hand-in-hand with Marketers to connect insights to decision making and activation.

Gain Theory, a global marketing effectiveness consultancy, is included in Forrester’s report “Three Requirements Every CPG Marketer Needs to Select a Marketing Measurement Vendorreleased May 6, 2020.

Forrester’s report details how CPG marketer’s measurement needs differ from those of marketers in industries with greater access to consumer data and outlines the CPG-specific capabilities needed from partners to optimize marketing budgets.

Gain Theory’s consulting-first approach provides its clients with marketing analytics, training, data strategies, and help building marketing strategy recommendations.”

The Forrester report states that B2C marketers in the CPG industry have minimal access to customer-level data. Due to using third-party distributors, like grocers, and indirect relationships with customers the availability of customer-level purchase data is severely limited.

Therefore, CPG marketers require unique marketing measurement approaches and rely upon robust assistance with data and analytics to understand the impact and results of their marketing campaigns.

Gain Theory is cited as a vendor that has the specialized capabilities and experience that CPG marketers need. Specifically, the report notes:

  • Gain Theory’s cloud-based decision-making platform Gain Theory Interactive “collates vast amounts of performance data across brands and geographies, enabling fast marketing optimizations”.
  • Various data assets Gain Theory can access, including, its own proprietary US tracker. “These data assets have information including but not limited to customer behavior, brand insights, and marketing investment data, which can be analyzed together to better understand marketing efficacy.”

Gain Theory has also been named a Strong Performer in The Forrester Wave™: Marketing Measurement and Optimization Solutions, Q1 2020 and is proud to be on Forrester’s shortlist for CPG marketers in this 2020 report.

As originally published in The Drum, 13th May 2020

Although it’s a precarious time to make sweeping business changes, Gain Theory’s Russell Nuzzo makes the case for Near-Term Measurement in lieu of marketers’ favourite – Multi-Touch Attribution. 

Every organization is asking the same question: if the world economy is frozen, what can I cut that will still allow me to come out of the running blocks fast? Unfortunately for many marketers, the decisions around investment cuts are being made by finance, with only the savviest of chief marketing officers having a say. 

Right now, marketers need to justify every dollar by using the most accurate and relevant data possible to make fast decisions that will have a positive impact. In this climate, businesses that can, need to generate revenue now. 

If return on investment was important for advertisers before the Covid-19 outbreak, it’s absolutely mission-critical now. And for marketing measurement, if anything good can come of the current crisis, it’s that brands begin a renewed focus on mastering what we call ‘near-term performance measurement.’ This approach focuses on using immediate and precise data signals to make advertising decisions. 

Simply put – this crisis requires a strong, data-oriented approach for how we gauge the effectiveness of advertising. It’s time to zero-in on the data that is actually going to help you impact and protect your business immediately, rather than seek solutions through overly complex approaches with highly imperfect data. 

Understandably, the temptation will be to plug the near-term ‘water leak’ by using the multi-touch attribution (MTA) ‘hammer’ that sits in the marketing measurement toolbox. But the ‘hammer’ is not the only tool you could use. 

Historically, brands have tried to be as strategic as possible with their marketing spending using established approaches such as marketing mix modeling (MMM). These models help big brands figure out how best to allocate their budgets to maximize key measures such as reach and sales and evaluate tradeoffs. 

However, if we recognize that the next six-12 months will look nothing like the past two to three years, the old models may no longer apply. MMM should not be thrown out; it can provide a great framing exercise. But it needs to be coupled with a strong, near-term measurement solution that can read and react based on what’s happening right now. 

And if brands don’t get ‘right now’ right – their future isn’t necessarily guaranteed. 

MTA is not the Swiss army knife that marketers need 

Not long ago, MTA was once the darling of the marketing industry. Conceptually, it’s understandable. Who wouldn’t want to figure out exactly which ads drove which action? Even better, it promised marketers the ability to discern how different ad units across multiple media channels worked together to influence consumers and drive action. That’s essentially marketing’s holy grail: reach exactly who you want and don’t waste any money. 

On paper, this is exactly the kind of tool that would be valuable right now, as chief marketing officers grapple with maddening business questions. But MTA has consistently overpromised and underdelivered. 

A slew of less than satisfied customers can attest to this. I have heard of projects that take more than a year to get off the ground, significant data gaps and difficulties distilling tangible insights, not to mention the challenges of integrating MTA outputs back into clients’ adtech stacks. The continued deterioration of third-party cookies and IDs – the linchpin of MTA – will culminate in 2022 when Google, having followed Safari and Firefox, will begin blocking third-party cookies in Chrome. 

Now is the perfect time to re-evaluate the right tools for near-term measurement. 

The right tool for the right job 

While the climate will be challenging for the foreseeable future, creating a unified, near-term measurement solution coupled with robust scenario planning, fueled by the latest available data will be essential. 

There can be no garbage in and no garbage out. Not now. 

To fuel near-term measurement, a tried and tested data-led alternative is to lean into what we call ‘micro-geographies’ for targeting as opposed to cookies. It is much easier to determine where an ad impression was served than who it was served to. Plus, micro-geographies are far more stable from data validation and privacy standpoints. 

Additionally, most external impacts to consumer buying decisions happen geographically; local pricing, local distribution, local weather, local competition – even local Covid-19 infection patterns can affect the decision to purchase something. 

We have been able to build these local features into our near-term measurement solution sensor; a micro-geography-based alternative to MTA. 

For Covid-19 specifically, we’ve been able to build a set of indicators to quantify how the outbreak is positively and negatively impacting brand sales. Some of those trends are short term but others may have longer-term impacts on brand preferences and consumer habits. Some of the impacts will fundamentally change business models permanently. 

Pivot to near-term measurement 

Organizations need an understanding of short-, medium- and longer-term impacts of all their current investment decisions, not just marketing. Alongside longer-term scenario planning using simulation techniques such as agent-based modelling as well as established techniques such as MMM, marketers also need an immediate view on the here and now. 

We think near-term measurement is the ultimate replacement for user-level MTA, and the perfect tool in the box for marketers in the Covid-19 ‘new normal’ landscape. Using near-term data can also predict consumer patterns before they happen. 

Now more than ever, marketers need to make data-informed confident decisions at speed. 

Using the right tools for the job, rather than reaching for a hammer, will help articulate the impact of investments ensuring brands remain relevant and robust through turbulent times, and that much better situated to lead when things get back ‘normal.’ 

How much budget should be spent on brand and performance advertising is a debate every marketer is familiar with. It can be thought of as a pendulum, which swings between the two extremes of brand and performance.

In our experience, there are three factors that determine the pendulum’s resting position:

  1. Structural factors, such as a brand’s sector, cycle, business model or strategy
  2. The extent to which a brand thinks the impact of brand spend is more challenging to determine than the impact of performance spend
  3. The extent to which a brand has a short-term mindset and a focus on short term results.

In addition, brands typically ask the following three questions:

  1. What happens when you take brand off air?

If brand spend is cut, there can be a short-term improvement on profitability. However, in the longer term we’ve seen profitability turn into a loss due to lost sales outweighing the cut in costs. One of our clients saw a short term $0.4m gain turn into a $1.1m loss.

The erosion of brand metrics follows. We’ve seen clients whose brand metrics have declined for at least three years following a cut of brand advertising. It is harder and takes longer to recover from this – for one client, we quantified a negative effect on sales of 20%.

So, while this approach can be appealing to hit short-term targets, it can be hugely damaging in the long run. This leaves one asking: is it worth it?

  1. What happens when you spend heavily on brand?

Some businesses will invest significantly in brand for a specific purpose, such as building awareness or telling stories to keep the brand feeling relevant and alive for customers. This type of investment can be a brave decision for marketers without appropriate measurement, as there is unlikely to be an immediate sales result.

One of our clients invests significantly in their brand advertising throughout the year. They view this as crucial to maintaining their strong brand position in the market and place importance on tracking brand metrics to measure its impact. They also see this spend build sales in the long term. To balance out this investment in brand advertising, they use performance campaigns to ensure they are also meeting sales expectations in the short term.

  1. What happens when you spend heavily on performance?

In some clients, we’ve seen a move towards heavily investing in promotions. Unsurprisingly, this shows immediate uplifts in sales and profit. As well as producing seductive metrics, it can also be very attractive from an investment point of view. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that as everyone needs to drive sales. However, taking a longer view, we’ve seen clients where significant spending on price and promotions created a negative impact on the brand and value for money metrics.

What’s the solution?

Defining and implementing a holistic measurement strategy is an important first step. This allows brands to quantify the impact from their marketing and make the best data-informed decisions about where investments should be made that will accelerate growth for the business overall.

Download Measurement Strategy: Getting to Best-in-Class Effectiveness

Marketers also need to remember that accountability is key. Finding the best way to measure brand and performance spend so apples-to-apples comparisons can be made is important, particularly when it comes to discussions with finance.

Read How Marketing Can Strengthen Its Alliance With Finance

The analytics era seems to finally have arrived in marketing. 

The question is, “Are marketers actually ready?”

For example, three-quarters of brands say they are spending more on marketing technology this year, with 24% claiming to be spending significantly more, according to a recent Forrester report.

It looks like marketers are finally taking this seriously.

At the same time, just 10% of brands in that report say they have a clear picture of who their customers actually are. Not just the data, but who they are as people, and how that affects their consumption habits.

Something’s not right here. I suspect we know why.

We’ve heard more than a few stories like this. A major marketer is fixated on using advertising to drive acquisitions and wants to better manage its return on investment. So, it turns to one of the many technology partners in the market for help in building a multi-touch attribution (MTA) models.

The marketer is excited about the promise of better analytics, so they invest a significant amount of time and money along the way. Then they start getting insights back, and realize they have loads of questions they can’t answer, such as:

“Are these numbers good or bad?” 

“What is success?” 

“What should we do with this information?”

“How do we take this insights and move our budget to places that will drive more acquisitions?” 

Faced with all these fundamental questions, instead of taking the bold action they dreamed about, the marketer freezes. Eventually the company abandons the MTA tool with little to show for their investment.

Like I said, we’ve seen and heard lots of stories like this. We can help make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Making effective marketing decisions is complicated. 

There are many considerations to determine which strategies are working and which ones aren’t, but that’s only the first piece of the puzzle. Once you figure this out, the next question is always “Why?” and then “What can we do about it?” 

That’s why so many marketers are investing in advanced analytics tools like Multi Touch Attribution and Market Mix Modelling. These kinds of products theoretically answer those questions, helping you guide effective decision making and uncover optimization opportunities. 

Currently, marketers spend 5% to 7% of their overall budgets on data analytics. According to the CMO Survey, that number is expected to jump to 11.3% in the next three years.

Which is great, but only if these brands get a return on their analytics investment.

This is easier said than done. I’ve seen many organizations adopt advanced analytics approaches but fail to use the insight gained in an effective way. 

In almost every case, these brands want to improve ROMI (return on marketing investment). Yet as they proceed with their analysis, they often realize that different pockets of the organization have very different definitions of ROMI.

If everybody has a different measuring stick for success, as a marketer you will not be able to make many informed decisions. You probably suffer a perpetual state of indecision.

The good news is, we’ve seen this play out before, and we can help you through it. Here are five ways you can avoid letting your analytics investment languish – and turn your insights into powerful, profitable action for your organization.

Determine clear KPIs for the business and have the entire company agree upon them. This can be done by having open honest conversations about what the drivers of your business are. 

Hold everyone accountable to those KPIs. If there is no accountability, people will not take action upon results, leading to a lot of wasted resources. The Harvard Business Review has outlined five ways to hold people accountable: 

Clear expectations

Clear capability

Clear measurement

Clear feedback 

Clear consequences 

Train teams to accurately interpret the results. It’s crucial that your people must understand what the outputs are telling them in order to implement effective actions to drive business growth. For example, ROI is a simple metric that many marketers understand, but what they may not know is what is considered good/bad for an ROI. 

Bring together additional considerations to tell the full story. There is more to performance than just what the model tells us. A marketer should ask themselves why something is performing well or badly. For example, who was the target audience? Is there an opportunity to invest more into those tactics? What additional media was in market? Were there additional factors at play that could have influenced results?

Partner closely with your analytics teams. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many organizations in which these two groups work in silos, which results in marketers not always being clear on what they need, and analytics teams providing less than actionable insights. On the flip side, when the two groups come together, I’ve seen them come up with those Ah-ha! moments marketers dream about when starting their analytics journeys.

Only when all these factors come together can marketers extract the true value out of their models, as they will be empowered to make smarter business decisions. 

For example, a client of ours previously had a seasonal campaign running. Before it started, everyone, including the senior leadership team, came together to determine and agree upon the main KPIs.

We built a multi-attribution model to measure against the KPIs and trained the client and media agency on how to accurately interpret the results. Multiple stakeholders with different types of data and insights came together to discuss the results and it was determined that some creative messages weren’t resonating with their customers. 

Therefore, the company adjusted their creative in their media during their campaign. This resulted in a multi-million dollar increase in revenue, which more than paid for the models. 

In the example above, all the pieces of the puzzle came together to empower marketers to make smarter business decisions which drove more value for their organization.

It can be done – with the right help.

Originally published on The Drum

Lindsay Egan is a partner at Gain Theory

With over 20 years of experience in consulting, data strategy, technology and marketing analytics, Dodge will partner with Retail and Entertainment brands to support business growth from marketing investments.

Gain Theory, a WPP global marketing effectiveness consultancy that empowers marketers to create agile, smarter, data-informed cultures via data, technology and advanced analytics has appointed James Dodge to lead it’s North America Retail Practice from Chicago.

Dodge brings over 20 years’ experience helping retailers improve omni channel marketing effectiveness from within organizations such as Nielsen, McKinsey, BASES, Shure and Milliman. At Nielsen, he led the Retail Consulting & Analytics Team helping clients such as Lowes, Walmart, Safeway Albertsons, Walgreens, Roundy’s, Delhaize, CVS and Target, improve effectiveness with pricing, marketing analytics, forecasting, segmentation and customer profiling.  At McKinsey, Dodge was in the Retail Practice providing information, research and analysis on corporate strategy, store operations, branding, marketing, and CRM engagements for clients.  Most recently at Shure, he developed the corporate data strategy, started their enterprise data lake as well as a data engineering and data science team. 

The appointment of Dodge is testament to Gain Theory’s deep-rooted experience and commitment to helping Retailers understand marketing’s impact on both short and long-term business objectives. Gain Theory has been recognized for its Unified Measurement approach and the sophistication of their models. Gain Theory has also developed and successfully rolled out a groundbreaking near-term measurement solution called Sensor™ which allows for an “in-campaign” tactical view of performance across online and offline channels, without the need for Personal Identifiable Information (PII).

“I am excited to join Gain Theory at a time when many retailers require a partner that understands all of the complex questions they need answered and knows how to apply the right type of advanced analytics, data science and machine learning  for insights they can act on.“ says Dodge “Gain Theory is perfectly poised to deliver client success through speed, scale and sophistication.”

“At Gain Theory, we have a deep heritage in partnering with Retailers to address complex business questions.” says Shawn O’Neal, CEO North America ”I am delighted to have James lead our Retail Practice – his extensive Retail and CPG experience at the intersect of data strategy, technology, advanced analytics and consulting will add tremendous value to clients who need a data-informed approach to decision-making to drive growth”.

Most online ad experiences still feel like a re-run of last week’s searches and purchases.

We’ve been talking about how advances in digital media and data will result in every person on the web seeing a deeply personalized ad for every occasion since the days of AOL dial-up.

Why, then, do most of our digital ad experiences still feel like a “groundhog day” of what we searched and bought in the previous week? (If you don’t agree, just take a spin around the web and let me know how customized and rewarding your ad experience feels.)

Given the immense amount of personal data at our fingertips, you’d think that by now we’d be communicating elegantly with each customer—precisely when, where, and how they would like to engage with our brands. You’d think, with programmatic buying, that we’d be able to do this and still achieve huge reach.

And you’d think, with AI, powerful ‘identity graphs’ and multi touch attribution (MTA), that it would be easy to execute and measure these sophisticated conversations.

Yet personalization remains mostly a fantasy and right now it’s just not happening between brands and people. It’s time to examine why and to ask ourselves: Is personalization even a good idea in the first place?

Reality check
In trying to achieve one-to-one marketing, we might actually be putting our brands at risk of fragmented messaging, multiple personalities and vapor for brand equity. And even if we actually pull this off, there is a ton of mythology surrounding our ability to successfully execute micro-campaigning at the kind of scale we need to move markets and competitive share.

Often this comes down to simple math. If you target a specific slice of the web population using the powerful segmenting tools at your disposal, you may start with a million prospects. But, for every attribute you apply, you end up slicing that group thinner and thinner. Very quickly, you may find that your sophisticated marketing efforts have led you to a handful of shaving cream enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest.

And we’re not even touching on the grand delusion that MTA can measure it all.

In our experience, working with even the biggest brands, MTA exercises are extremely complicated, expensive, require a crazy amount of work and rarely pay off.

It’s natural for CMOs to want to figure out exactly how every interaction with their brand leads to a purchase over a day, a week, a month and a year—and how much they should be spending on each media touchpoint to deliver that purchase.

But, in terms of practicality, it’s as big a fantasy today as “Game of Thrones”.

And here’s the friction…
Even if it’s possible to execute messaging with such surgical precision, there’s the small matter of whether consumers actually want to connect one-on-one with brands—even the ones they love.

In a survey from March 2018, more than half of adult respondents reported either neutral or negative receptivity towards personalized ads and the influence of such ads on their buying decisions.

We’re at a point where consumers are more savvy, empowered (hello ad blockers) and informed than ever. They are clicking permission check boxes and they are reading about EU fines for Google/Facebook and massive data breaches around the world. We haven’t even begun to solve the privacy issues associated with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe, while the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) will soon be upon us in the U.S. Will identity graphs even be legal in the future?

The future is uncertain, but it will be bright
What we’re left with is a whole new world of ad targeting. We think consumers will end up in a place where they have far greater control and transparency around how they are being targeted.

They may even—wait for it-—agree to get paid by brands for their attention.
That may seem a little far-fetched now, but it actually represents a huge opportunity. Imagine a world where consumers actively engage in what they see and don’t see and they are actually “bought” into the relationship? Instead of wasting billions of dollars on unwanted ads, we will invest where ads are relevant and welcomed by those willing to be compensated.

It can’t get more personal than that.

Originally published on Ad Age

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