OPINION5 February 2015

Beyond the big reveal


Think about the deliverables for a typical tracking study. Excel sheets with KPIs. Regular, scheduled reports. Monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual PowerPoint decks depending on the client’s need. An in-person presentation where the insights are discussed with key client stakeholders.

These are the traditional ways of sharing tracking study insights and learnings from agency to client. All of these approaches have at their core an assumption of a ‘big reveal’ from agency to client in a process following roughly three steps – agency collects data, agency prepares data into a story suitable for sharing with client, and finally agency makes the big reveal of the story to the client.

The big reveal form of reporting worked for many years because researchers had access to information that no-one else had, culture was moving at a slower pace than it is now, and the report and presentation were accepted as the main venue for information sharing. However, things are changing, and the era of the big reveal is coming to a close. What’s different, and how should agencies be changing to stay current?

From closely held to shareable data

Data and insights are no longer the sole property of the agency. Advances in analysis software and ‘data-cloud’ capabilities make it possible for agencies to deliver 24/7 on-line analysis platforms to their clients. KPIs can be formatted to client specifications and made available to users across the client organisation in the form of dashboards, with appropriate analytic commentary provided by the agency. The data is updated in close to real time and clients, if they want, have the ability to interrogate it, going beyond the KPIs to pull out other information relevant to their business. Clients and agencies alike have access to multiple streams of data from survey to sales to social; all of these need to be considered and integrated into the mix where relevant.

From scheduled to timely outputs

Reports and scorecards were set up to be distributed on a regular cadence, but in today’s marketing world brand owners regularly need to make decisions before the next tracking report is ready. Outputs are increasingly less tied to timetables and more to when agencies are noticing that something important is happening in the market for our client’s brands or their competition. We believe if we see something notable, we should be bringing this to our client’s attention when it happens, and have trained our teams and built internal systems to make this agile approach to insights a reality.

From long form to short

Tracking reports are notorious for being long, and ‘long reads’ are out of fashion in today’s world of smaller screens and on-the-go decision making. From blogs to tweets to now the “Glance,” people are increasingly accustomed to and seeking out shorter bursts of information, and are asking researchers to oblige by demanding reports of, for example, not more than 10-15 pages. We are always striving to simplify and reduce the amount of information needed to tell the narratives we uncover in the data.

From a few outlets of sharing to many

For a long time, PowerPoint decks, Excel files of KPIs and presentations were the primary form of deliverables. Today we can incorporate many different approaches, including digital dashboards, newsletters, blogs, virtual project rooms, audio and video podcasts, tickers, alerts…. Some of these can even be ‘open’ forums where collaboration between agency and client is encouraged. The list will continue to expand as technology evolves and new forms of communication emerge.

Whatever the form, the learnings, insights and recommendations need to be situated within the larger context of the questions we’re answering for our clients, and help drive the narrative arc of the story that we uncover in the data.

Keeping pace with all this change may feel daunting. Shareable data means more capabilities around data management and integrity, and technology. Timely outputs require not just tools but teams that are primed and able to work in what may feel like always-on mode. Creating simplified narratives across multiple platforms involves training and a keen willingness to experiment on the part of the agency, not to mention receptivity to the new among clients. Whatever the case, the culture around us is moving forward. It’s time to get beyond the big reveal, and make tracking insights more immediately compelling, powerful, and actionable.

Brian Kushnir is executive vice president and managing director of Added Value.