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  • Lou Killeffer

Mad Men Seek Math Men: the Sequel

Last June, along with 150 others across industry and academia, I was interviewed by the Association of National Advertisers’ AEF for their study, “Bridging the Analytics Disconnect: Charting a More Data-Driven Pathway to Growth”.

Created in 1983, the ANA’s Educational Foundation (AEF) works with the advertising, marketing, and academic communities to promote marketing and advertising careers to the best and the brightest of the next generation. And each year the AEF conducts research into solutions that will bring all three partners and their varying agendas closer together.

"Bridging the Analytics Disconnect" is a direct response to the growing concern that the fields of marketing and advertising face a real and pressing analytics crisis. That, in fact, the game has changed and the explosion of consumer information captured online requires companies to embrace new tools and talent to structure and distill vast oceans of data into the actionable insights that drive marketplace success.

Given my dual responsibilities as an agency leader and an adjunct professor, I was particularly pleased to be included in the study, as originally posted in Mad Men Seek Math Men.

The Damning Data

The AEF’s now published its report and the conclusions are somewhat shocking. The fundamental finding is the marketing profession must work far more closely with higher education if we’re to create the new data and analytics talent crucial to business’ evolving needs.

And that today, there are three pronounced issues that hinder this from happening...

1. Traditionally narrow student perceptions of marketing restrict the overall candidate pool and the scope of study, making it difficult to embed analytics into the curriculum. Net, apparently a majority of students view marketing as more qualitative than quantitative. 

2. Ongoing “friction” between business and academia in research relationships hampers students’ ability to connect data and accompanying analytics to real-world, marketplace outcomes. More collaboration needs to be built based on the imperatives of performance and the speed and pace of change driving business today.

3. Finally, and most significant to me by far, the study says the shortage of analytical capabilities isn’t simply a lack of technical skills but rather a crying need for the strategic and communication skills that can distill data into insights and convey them convincingly to drive decision making.

A Critical Conclusion

Obviously there are several parties and lots of moving parts to all of this but without putting too fine a point on my own prejudices it seems that an absence of critical thinking is the root of all three issues.

The question is why?

Throughout my career, "doing your homework" by applying rigorous critical thinking has always separated marketing success from failure. This is abundantly true in each and every application of the expanding frame of today's martech. It's not just about pulling numbers and applying algorithms but rather knowing what they reference and understanding what they mean. Which is why in the classroom my focus is on teaching my students the value and practice of insight driven critical thinking and analytical reasoning - the ability to confidently connect the dots”.

Perhaps the more things change, the more they truly stay the same...

You’ll find an Executive Summary of “Bridging the Analytics Disconnect: Charting a More Data-Driven Pathway to Growth” here and the entire Study can be accessed here. It's critically important research with significant implications for the success of marketing and advertising both today and tomorrow.


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