Data scientists help brands navigate the digital maelstrom.

By Ed Cox, managing director of Forward Media UK

Data scientists are a new breed of agency worker who blend high level digital skills, statistical expertise, consumer insights and business nous. We have been hiring these data mavens since we set up our main teams and they are making a huge difference to the services we deliver to clients.

The media agency of the future will be one that can navigate the digital world, make sense of big data and offer clients market-beating ways of engaging with audiences. Data scientists are essential to realising this vision as they can comb through data from the web, apps, social media and offline then apply analytics, maths and data modelling. Their insights and analysis are critical in steering brands through the digital maelstrom. Think data analysts with great business acumen.

Data scientists are far from the stereotype nerds. They are definitely not your typical media agency staff or from a sales background. Everyone here loves working with the data scientists because they come up with innovative ideas for digital marketing.

Recently our data science team in Germany developed a web crawler that is able to identify all the competitive ads for a given sector in real-time, so we can see the offers each brand is making in the market in the moment they launch their campaigns.

This is helping the brands that we work with tailor their offers to the market and ensure that they are not simply repeating an offer that is already out there, or worse, making offers that are being undercut by a competitor.

A profound problem of the digital world is the difficulty of tracking what is going on. With so much content being put on the web every second of the day, the market can change before you even have a chance to take a breath and think. Having a web crawler that automatically recognises what is going on in the market — in real time — is a huge advantage.

Of course, you can buy all sorts of solutions off the shelf for measuring social media chatter and sentiment, but being able to offer clients a bespoke in-house solution is all part of the DNA of Forward Media.

Technology is opening up new avenues for marketing and the interchange of messages between brands and consumers. Widespread virtual reality is around the corner, and superfast 5G mobile is on the way. Data scientists will play an increasingly important role in helping brands understand consumers and markets, and in offering guidance in the supercharged digital world.

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