Case study: WPP uses DataSift to evolve its data strategy

The WPP group has begun a partnership with text data filtering and aggregation company DataSift

The WPP group of marketing services companies has added a partnership with text data filtering and aggregation company DataSift. 

The deal means WPP companies – such as GroupM, Wunderman, Kantar, JWT and Cohn & Wolfe – can access social data from digital platforms that include Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook.

The partnership is organised through a central WPP unit – Data Alliance – headed by Nick Nyhan, who is also chief digital officer at market research consultancy Kantar.

“Data Alliance is focused on what we call ‘data horizontality’, which is about better leveraging of data across the group," he says. 

"The WPP companies all want data, but for different things. Martin Sorrell [WPP’s chief executive officer] does not want us to replicate things we can share, and that goes across data sets, taxonomies and people. It’s like the Star Alliance in the airline industry.

“If you are going to be doing data work you want offline data as well because consumers are not just digital. Every part of WPP wants that data.”

Tackling the big data puzzle

The unit was conceived two years ago, and has recently picked up speed, says Nyhan, with data partnerships such as the one with DataSift.

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“It is such a big topic, data, and there are already so many puzzle pieces to WPP that it took us a while to figure out where we should start.

“The Data Alliance also gets involved in data advisory services, helping client leaders or operating companies within the group find the data and technology that people would need for a project.

"DataSift represents an elegant way to tap into major social sources, and provide that to many companies at WPP. It also has the key capability to look backwards. Our clients want to see how things are progressing over time”.

Nyhan says the response has been enthusiastic across the group, as “people are relieved that so much of the legwork has been taken out”.

He confirms that Twitter has advised WPP on how to use Twitter data, and presented it with some choices: “People say they want Twitter data, but who wants the raw hose? It needs to be cleaned up and prepared, and DataSift does that.”

WPP also has a business – Visible Technologies – that provides a social media monitoring platform. “DataSift is about having access to data that is a level down, making ingredients that could be infused into what WPP does,” says Nyhan.

Phase two of social media analytics

Nyhan takes the view that social media analytics has gone past the “early days of listening platforms, where companies could see what was being said about them. Sometimes companies would have five to fifteen of these listening dashboards worldwide, whether because they were siloed or finding out what works best.

“We’re now into phase two, where you have one source that does many different things, whether for corporate communications or the CRM [customer relationship management] team, and so on.

We are strategically building an environment for data to be used in different ways

Nick Nyhan, WPP

“Every marketer wants to be more nimble and real time. Twitter is a fantastic source for that.”

Data is hardly new for WPP. 

“Data has been historically part of WPP’s DNA, going back to [David] Ogilvy, the original Mad Man, and forward to Kantar, which is a big part of WPP. But we are now leveraging and connecting data more creatively to the new data sources," says Nyhan.

The DataSift deal will also provide an ability to filter social data through a service called I-Behavior, which is owned by another WPP company, KBM Group. I-Behavior is focused, through its Zipline data management platform (DMP), on connecting offline activities with online.

Through the Zipline DMP, DataSift’s social data can be connected with a variety of WPP data assets, including TV viewership, research panels, purchase and consumer data from around the globe for insights, audience building and brand tracking.

“We’re not just a group of companies that does marketing services, but we are strategically building an environment for data to be used in different ways. That gives a foundation that many of our operating countries can either connect to or share," says Nyhan.

“But just because you can be creative with data does not mean you should. You need to do it compliantly,” he adds.

Nick Halstead, founder of DataSift, says of the deal: “We sit between WPP and Twitter to make the data manageable. Also, we offer a broad solution for all social data – Facebook and Tumblr, as well as Twitter. It’s a strategic deal that we worked on for a year, the technology integration started about six months ago. We are not an end analytics solution. We are the layer which makes possible the better use of the raw data.”

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