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Marketing, advertising set the tone for big data cloud agenda

The merger of ad agencies Omnicom and Publicis, and marketing tools from Teradata and Kognitio, point to a growing focus on big data in the cloud.

You may have missed the biggest merger in the history of big data. It happened not in Silicon Valley but instead on Madison Ave., or what passes for Madison Ave. these days. Two giant ad agencies, Paris-based Publicis Group and Omnicom Group Inc. in New York, said they plan to merge to create one really giant ad agency with $23 billion in projected annual revenue. The move could set the tone for what looks like an emerging big data cloud agenda.

By some measures, the deal announced July 29 makes for the biggest ad company in the world. But one could easily put Google ahead, as the do-no-evil search company garnered $43 billion in ad revenue last year. And that's where the big data angle comes in. Many observers positioned the Publicis-Omnicom pairing as a big data play launched in response to Google's data-driven advertising juggernaut.

Both Omnicom and Publicis have scooped up digital software talent in recent years. Ad companies have always been equally about creative communications and targeted demographics. But as more and more commerce goes online, leaving a large data trail behind, digitally targeted demographics are tipping the balance. In addition, leading-edge ad agencies, as well as marketers and research firms, are using cloud computing technology to retrieve and analyze demographics data and deliver refined information to ad buyers.

Marketing and advertising are the first killer app for big data technology, hands down. What this means for data management professionals is that data handling and analytics requirements for online marketing apps will likely evolve more quickly than they do for other vertical applications. Everything from cancer research to the Internet of Things has been pitched as a big data target. But right now, at least, marketing and advertising are out front in the big data hunt.

Say it isn't CMO

Many purchases of big data tools are being initiated outside of IT today. A rise of marketing departments as deciders in technology matters has led some people to predict that chief marketing officers -- the customers of Publicis and Omnicom -- may take over a big part of the chief information officer's job. Teradata's Wes Moore would temper that expectation, but he does see a bigger IT role ahead for marketing execs.

Marketing and advertising are out front in the big data hunt.

"I don't think the CMO is going to replace the CIO. But will they work more closely? Yes," said Moore, vice president of integrated marketing management at the Dayton, Ohio-based data warehousing vendor. He said recent Teradata-sponsored research shows that 71% of marketers plan to implement big data analytics applications in the next two years. If that is the case, marketing may be taking the lion's share of responsibility for systems of innovation, leaving IT to labor away on more mundane systems of record.

With the onslaught of social media and mobile apps, there are new communication channels with which marketing must deal, according to Moore. Teradata, he claimed, can span the range from IT-oriented data needs via its flagship data warehouse software and Aster product line to marketing-oriented data needs via its Aprimo marketing management software.

Aprimo offers a cloud-based approach to marketing data management. As such it reflects one of today's most conspicuous trends. Because of cloud technology, marketing folks are able to go outside the organization to find big data tools since they can handle the workload without building up IT infrastructure.

Supermarkets stocked with in-memory analytics

Big data and the cloud computing have received inordinate media coverage in recent years, it's true -- but it has gotten to the point where they are beginning to change how IT is done. A recent conversation with a food store marketing specialist starting down the road with in-memory retail analytics shows what the future might look like.

Jim Hertel, managing partner at Willard Bishop LLC, a Chicago-based consultancy to food retailers, told me that supermarket chains have seen a big data explosion in the form of customer loyalty card and frequent shopper information, but it hasn't been easy for the grocers themselves to tap into all that data.

So Willard Bishop recently contracted with in-memory analytical database provider Kognitio to use a cloud-based system to bring big data analytics to its consumer packaged goods and retail clients. "The merchants are concerned about getting the right pricing strategy relative to the competition," Hertel said. "They have been doing it with precious little guidance and a lot of oral history."

The undertaking with Kognitio is intended to bring Willard Bishop's expertise to the problem of unlocking customer insight from behind large walls of data. Early on, the decision was made that a big data cloud environment was the way to go.

The company sees big data done on the cloud as a cost-effective approach: Cloud systems tend to be treated on corporate ledgers as an operational expense, rather than a capital cost. "We are a consulting firm, and we are allergic to big asset capital spending projects," Hertel said.

Taken together, big data and cloud technologies may form an even more potent mix than they do separately, especially in the present big data hotbed of marketing and advertising.

Jack Vaughan is SearchDataManagement's news and site editor. Email him at, and follow us on Twitter: @sDataManagement.

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Lots of opportunity for big data in research, and IT operations.