DAN Data & Analytics Joins Forces with Google to ‘Hack’ Solutions for Present-Day Media Challenges

On October 19th, data analysts from across Dentsu Aegis Network teamed up with Google engineers to use Google’s Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to ideate, develop and present data-backed solutions aimed at solving four key challenges facing our agency teams today. While the analyst and engineer groups tackled their respective tasks, managers joined an Executive track, which highlighted the application and immediate use cases for data-centric solutions across our business that can be leveraged on behalf of clients.

The energy and excitement was palpable upon entering the room, lit by computer screens filled with code and rows upon rows of data. Huddled around four tables at Google’s New York office along the Hudson River, sat over 20 “hackers” from agencies across Dentsu Aegis Network, tasked with solving significant data, analytics and technology challenges currently facing our agency businesses today.

The session, a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Dentsu Aegis Network and Google’s DoubleClick team, was born out of the desire for cross-collaboration and knowledge sharing. Amidst a year of monumental, positive change across the Network — both in the US market and around the world — coupled with an increased focus on people-based and data-led approaches to media, meant that we needed to get our best and brightest together to ensure we continue to put our best “data foot” forward on behalf of our clients. The ability the do so in partnership with an innovative, forward-thinking company like Google, fast-tracked our capability to make it a reality.

Hackers were divided into four groups, with Google Product teams at the ready to support their efforts, and were charged with developing data and analytics solutions focused around key challenge pillars — Innovation, Activation and Data Infrastructure — with a mere six hours to bring their solutions to life. The solutions would be judged by panelists, including Amplifi’s Chief Digital Officer, Louisa Wong and SVP, Director of Data & Analytics, Patricio Jaramillo as well as Google’s Head of gTech, DoubleClick Platforms, Gui Ambros.

Innovation teams leveraged Google’s Cloud Vision and Video Intelligence APIs, Tensor Flow and Google Cloud to predict and analyze both digital images and video creative performance using visual elements such as logos, human features, scene transitions and other identifiable attributes. The expected output? A full-fledged analysis via Big Query, highlighting best performing creatives, which can in turn be used by activation teams to optimize accordingly.

The Activation group was charged with creating the best audience target leveraging over 870 Merkle One (M1) data variables, Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine, Cloud Storage and Big Query. The scalable audience segments developed, slated to be used to target real people — not proxies — across digital media campaigns.

Last, but certainly not least, using Google Cloud and Big Query technologies, the DAN Americas Technology Team set out to develop a quicker, repeatable data onboarding process for Dentsu Aegis Network agency teams, leveraging Accumine Data Platform and analytics data from Data2Decisions. An interactive data interface that clients can play with on-demand is every performance-fueled marketer’s dream.

In addition to the Hackathon itself, executives and engineers from across Carat, Vizeum/360i, Merkle, Dentsu Aegis Network Technology, Fetch, Amnet, Amplifi, FirstBorn and others gathered for an Executive Track, featuring round table discussions highlighting analytics best practices, case studies from across the group showcasing data-in-action, and to gain a better understanding of the Global vision for data and analytics across the Network, presented by Niel Bornman, DAN’s Global Data Officer.

A Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA) panel kicked off the Executive track, featuring key thought leaders from across the group. Alex Yoder, EVP of Analytics at Merkle, Jake Scroczynski, VP of Analytics for Amnet, Irina Pessin, US Managing Partner for D2D, Michael Hopkins, Head of GA360 Americas at Google and Niel Bornman joined Chelsea Brennan, Marketing Communications lead at Amplifi US, to discuss key challenges associated with MTA today and how we can work together to drive progress on behalf of our clients. Panelists departed the stage in agreement that the catalyst for the change needed to overcome those challenges is teamwork; breaking down the silos and recognizing that the only way to move forward is to do so in partnership.

The event culminated in honors for the winning hacker team comprising Balaji Rao (Amnet), William Zhang (Carat), Chuck Schultz (Carat), Mary Andrews (Cardinal Path) and Caleb Fleming (Merkle). Their methodology for quantifying the impact in terms of engagement of objects contained within still image creatives captured the top prize. Utilizing Google’s Cloud Vision API and additional custom statistical models they were able to distill what objects and colors contributed to an effective image. But really, all solutions developed by the hacking groups are “winning” and will continue to be developed and brought to fruition for agency teams across the Network to take advantage of in the coming months.

While collaboration was the anticipated outcome of the day, what resulted was collaboration taken to the next level. The hacker projects, executive roundtables and one-off discussions between Lightning talks resulted in the fostering of relationships. Relationships that will extend far beyond the rapid-fire coding projects and outside of the red, yellow, green and blue lit hallways of Google’s New York office along the Hudson River. The Hackathon was a prime example of an integrated, holistic Network approach to problem solving and the innovation that can result when you get it right.

“The Hackathon was an awesome opportunity to work with other data scientists across our network,” said Caleb Fleming, Manager of Digital Analytics at Merkle. “The competition format and team projects facilitated new conversations around how we can collectively work to change the digital landscape through innovation and advanced analytics applied to media activation. The ability to brainstorm and network with colleagues just as passionate as I am made the event an invaluable experience!”

Louisa Wong summed up the event as she addressed the hackers in her closing keynote, “Be proud of the work that you did today. You are the future leaders of our business and your drive and passion for data, analytics and technology are the turbo-charged sparks that are going to drive Dentsu Aegis Network full-steam ahead.”

A huge thanks to our partners at Google for their support and partnership in hosting and developing a fantastic and inspiring event with our Dentsu Aegis Network team.