Monday, 1 April 2013

Martin Sorrell: if you don’t eat your children, someone else will

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks back, Mr Sorrell explained quite openly what he means when he says that Business must embrace this digital revolution:
How can legacy businesses keep their traditional, profitable operations going, while the new digital upstarts bite into their businesses? It’s the old cannibalisation argument – if you don’t eat your children, someone else will.
He makes two points. One about data ...
We are increasingly embracing the application of technology to our business, along with big data, which means we are Maths Men as well as Mad Men ... the application of technology and big data have become areas of competitive differentiation ... the new and more complex sources of data, which these new media bring, mean that measurement of effectiveness and return on investment has become more achievable – although media fragmentation has made it more complex ... Big data – which to me means the collection of all sources of data (ours and our competitors’) and deployment on dashboards in real time – is for the first time a real possibility.
... and one about clients:
... our target customer is no longer just the chief executive officer and chief marketing officer but, increasingly, the chief information officer or chief technology officer, along with the chief procurement officer and chief financial officer.
Mr Sorrell's companies, remember, are the true users of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, et al –  together, the latter-day Pied Pipers of Hamelin.

You don't spend a farthing on using Google, Facebook and the others. Whereas Mr Sorrell's companies spend £46 billion a year with the Pied Pipers. They count. You don't.

To make sure that the money is spent wisely, the Mad Men need data. Lots of it. Remember that, when you read about the Department for Business Innovation and Skills's midata initiative. BIS may say that you will be in control of your own data. With £46 billion at stake, forget it.

The personal data to be stored by midata is indistinguishable in Whitehall's eyes from the government/public data to be mined for the UK's big data applications. You know that. That's why the same man is in charge of both projects – Professor Nigel Shadbolt.

Ex-Guardian man Mike Bracken, chief executive of the Government Digital Service (GDS), has recently announced changes in the governance of Whitehall, promoting CIOs (chief information officers) as the main ideas men for new digital services. When Mr Sorrell's men come knocking, they will be warmly welcomed. £46 billion buys you a lot of welcome.

It also buys you a lot of space. And GDS's GOV.UK has a lot of space. Take a look. All that lovely space down the left- and right-hand sides of the web page is just begging for advertisements.

And it buys you a lot of eyeballs. And with public services becoming digital-by-default, GDS can offer up to 60 million pairs.

It's a dish cooked in Heaven. Willing buyer, willing seller, everybody's happy. Everybody that counts, at least.

Feeling peckish, anyone?

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