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Inside the Insights

Inside the Insights

Danielle Smith

Danielle Smith

April 30, 2019

Havas New York's Caroline Smith on how data shapes meaningful ideas and drives decisions.

"We want to make sure we’re using data the right way."

Data can seem like a double-edged sword; both empowering and limiting the next move in a campaign. Senior Director of Analytics and Insight at Havas New York Caroline Smith shares her approach to using data as a tool, and how she got interested in analytics early in her career.

 

What is the biggest opportunity that data provides?

For me, data has always represented confidence. There have always been great ideas, but the level of confidence we have employing those ideas is connected to how strong the data support for them is. If they’re based on hunches or some quick tangential information, they may still make sense. However, having some strong data behind a direction, whether that be consumer research, previous campaign performance, social insights, or something else, really delivers the self-assurance needed to lean into a strategy.

How can data contribute to the creativity of messages from advertisers?

Data can provide a foundation and guidepost for creatives to build from. The more we know about a potential target—their needs and motivations, what stands out to them, what they don’t want, etc.—the more creatives can build upon that and translate it into something unique and clever, which they may not have landed on without that insight.

What is the difference between data and insights?

Data is a tool—pure fact without context on its own. Insights are what you build with this tool and how you translate raw fact into something usable.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about data and analytics?

That data is the final word. Strategists and creatives sometimes fear and avoid it because they think it will limit them, and clients can rely upon it too greatly without thinking about the bigger picture of what the data doesn’t represent. If data was perfect, that wouldn’t be an issue. As things are now, we need to always be cognizant of what the holes in our data set are, and how it might mislead us if we follow it too blindly. This is a big part of what my team helps with, which might not be as apparent. we We want to make sure we’re using data the right way.

"Machines can work for you, but they can’t think for you."

How do you explain this subject matter to those who aren’t in the industry?

My go-to is “I can tell you if your ad campaign did well,” and that’s about as deep as it ends up going.

How did you discover data and analytics as a career path?

I’m what someone might think of as stereotypical for the field. I was a math major in college. I loved the clarity and finality of math and statistics because there was no concern about “well if you look at it this way…” You were either right or wrong, and there were clear rules to get there. As I went through college, though, I found I distinctly didn’t want to work in theoretical math. I wanted what I did to have tangible meaning as part of its day-to-day process. I realized the business world would be perfect, which, until then, wasn’t something I had ever previously thought of as a potential avenue for me. From there, I was lucky to connect to someone who helped me get a job as a research analyst with Discovery Communications, and I’ve stayed in media/advertising analytics and research ever since.

Why might others consider delving into data as a career choice?

I always liken analytics work to solving puzzles. Each data set is something to be “solved” in order to find the key insights it holds. So, if that’s appealing, I’d say look into it. You have to like working with Excel, though, or you’ll lose your mind.

If you could share only one thing about data that you wish everyone knew, what would it be?

Data can’t replace people! You can have all the data in the world, but if there’s no one there to translate it, you may as well not have it at all. Machines can work for you, but they can’t think for you.

Anything that you’d like to add?

In recent years, I’ve been excited to see a big influx of women in the field, which wasn’t as common when I started out in 2008. Generally, I think people still think of analytics as male dominated, but I’ve worked with both brilliant men and women over the years, so don’t be scared off, ladies!

Additionally, you don’t have to be a math/stat/comp-sci major to do well in analytics. I’ve worked with communications majors, psychology majors, marketing majors, you name it. If you’re interested in learning more about the field generally or what it’s like to work at Havas, I’m happy to meet and chat with you.

"We want to make sure we’re using data the right way."

Data can seem like a double-edged sword; both empowering and limiting the next move in a campaign. Senior Director of Analytics and Insight at Havas New York Caroline Smith shares her approach to using data as a tool, and how she got interested in analytics early in her career.

 

What is the biggest opportunity that data provides?

For me, data has always represented confidence. There have always been great ideas, but the level of confidence we have employing those ideas is connected to how strong the data support for them is. If they’re based on hunches or some quick tangential information, they may still make sense. However, having some strong data behind a direction, whether that be consumer research, previous campaign performance, social insights, or something else, really delivers the self-assurance needed to lean into a strategy.

How can data contribute to the creativity of messages from advertisers?

Data can provide a foundation and guidepost for creatives to build from. The more we know about a potential target—their needs and motivations, what stands out to them, what they don’t want, etc.—the more creatives can build upon that and translate it into something unique and clever, which they may not have landed on without that insight.

What is the difference between data and insights?

Data is a tool—pure fact without context on its own. Insights are what you build with this tool and how you translate raw fact into something usable.

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about data and analytics?

That data is the final word. Strategists and creatives sometimes fear and avoid it because they think it will limit them, and clients can rely upon it too greatly without thinking about the bigger picture of what the data doesn’t represent. If data was perfect, that wouldn’t be an issue. As things are now, we need to always be cognizant of what the holes in our data set are, and how it might mislead us if we follow it too blindly. This is a big part of what my team helps with, which might not be as apparent. we We want to make sure we’re using data the right way.

"Machines can work for you, but they can’t think for you."

How do you explain this subject matter to those who aren’t in the industry?

My go-to is “I can tell you if your ad campaign did well,” and that’s about as deep as it ends up going.

How did you discover data and analytics as a career path?

I’m what someone might think of as stereotypical for the field. I was a math major in college. I loved the clarity and finality of math and statistics because there was no concern about “well if you look at it this way…” You were either right or wrong, and there were clear rules to get there. As I went through college, though, I found I distinctly didn’t want to work in theoretical math. I wanted what I did to have tangible meaning as part of its day-to-day process. I realized the business world would be perfect, which, until then, wasn’t something I had ever previously thought of as a potential avenue for me. From there, I was lucky to connect to someone who helped me get a job as a research analyst with Discovery Communications, and I’ve stayed in media/advertising analytics and research ever since.

Why might others consider delving into data as a career choice?

I always liken analytics work to solving puzzles. Each data set is something to be “solved” in order to find the key insights it holds. So, if that’s appealing, I’d say look into it. You have to like working with Excel, though, or you’ll lose your mind.

If you could share only one thing about data that you wish everyone knew, what would it be?

Data can’t replace people! You can have all the data in the world, but if there’s no one there to translate it, you may as well not have it at all. Machines can work for you, but they can’t think for you.

Anything that you’d like to add?

In recent years, I’ve been excited to see a big influx of women in the field, which wasn’t as common when I started out in 2008. Generally, I think people still think of analytics as male dominated, but I’ve worked with both brilliant men and women over the years, so don’t be scared off, ladies!

Additionally, you don’t have to be a math/stat/comp-sci major to do well in analytics. I’ve worked with communications majors, psychology majors, marketing majors, you name it. If you’re interested in learning more about the field generally or what it’s like to work at Havas, I’m happy to meet and chat with you.

Danielle Smith is the Communications Manager of Havas Group. She’s believes every meal can be tacos if you have tortillas and the heart to try.

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