Jay Stevens is CEO of media planning and data management company Redmill Solutions. We asked Jay about his career so far – which includes leadership roles at Adform, Rubicon and MySpace. We also cover the topic of local media, data fragmentation, and look ahead to what’s next for the industry.

Tell us a bit about your role, and your career journey so far…

I’ve been working within the world of marketing and advertising tech for 25 years now, and had the privilege of working in many areas of the ecosystem, in the Americas,  EMEA, LatAm, and APAC. Prior to joining MySpace in 2008, as its first hire outside the US, I ran International for Silverpop Systems, an email marketing software provider that was acquired by IBM.  It was my experience there that led to my interest in joining MySpace, building their UK and European operations.  What I thought most compelling about the social network was the amount of data it held on users and was subsequently able to use for targeting specific audiences.  Digital’s capabilities have moved well on since then, but at the time, 2006, it was groundbreaking, bringing deterministic database marketing capabilities to above the line brand marketing.

Following MySpace I held numerous other positions – at the Rubicon Project, Adform and then Hudson MX. All these roles have let me indulge my passion: building companies. This is my motivation and what I love dedicating my creativity and passion to, and in the process have gained great insight into the media management platforms servicing brands, agencies, and media owners.

Over the years, I’ve seen first-hand the problems antiquated, legacy platforms have created for the ecosystem. The modern platform that Redmill has built solves some of those problems, specifically those for global brands and I am excited to help bring it to the next level.

Global brands often find themselves overwhelmed with data. What effect does this have?

In short, it clouds their decision-making. In our age of Big Data, global brands are holding more information than ever before. While this can potentially unlock deeper customer insights and find value in previously untapped areas, the sheer mass of data collected can be unwieldy and prevent global teams from having the details they need.

The primary challenge they face is that it’s hard to get to. It sits, unstructured and siloed in inboxes, on excel spreadsheets, in various platforms, and among different agencies in different markets.

How can global brands best harness local data?

While digitization has brought us together in one sense, in another it has highlighted the hyper-local differences that exist between markets. With the exception of the Google Facebook duopoly, media is still a very local industry.  Brands in each market rely on the expertise and knowledge that only their local agencies can provide.

But, through no fault of their own, these local teams create a tangle of data for global teams. Differing taxonomies, languages and currencies can all lead to duplication and incomparable data sets. Budget cannot then be effectively spent in local regions, while friction between global and local teams can lead to deteriorating communication.

The first step global brands need to take is to recognise that local is king. Teams working on the ground understand the nuances and cultures of their markets on a far more granular level than their global counterparts.

Instead of trying to implement top-down data practices, or thinking that a single software solution is going to solve their woes, global brands need to preserve as much local data as possible when ingesting it into global systems, allowing for analysis of what truly makes these markets tick. Communication between teams is also important and needs to be a two-way street to maximise collaboration.

What technological issues are you seeing within media data management?

As previously mentioned, companies are already overwhelmed by data – and the volume is only going to increase. Much of this data sits in vast data silos, in various systems, in spreadsheets, on desktops and if brands don’t take control now, this situation is only going to be exacerbated.

Dredging information from these vast lakes of data is no easy task, and the lack of compatibility between systems only complicates matters. This fragmentation of data makes it hard for marketers to connect the dots and deliver actionable intelligence.

A clear line of sight over media data allows global brands to answer one of marketing’s most difficult questions – where exactly is my investment going? Huge amounts of media spend goes unaccounted for in nearly every global brand. A clearer overview of data means that marketers can more closely track that spend, find out how effective it has been and therefore optimise their budgets. No longer will a CMO feel a jolt of panic when their CFO asks “So how much have you spent, where, and what has been the result on sales?”

Data should form the backbone of all decision making made within a global company. If that data is cloudy, or unreliable, or hard to reach, the reality is, the decision making will suffer.

How do you predict your industry will evolve in the next 12 months? Any trends/innovation that will come to the forefront?

Like probably every other industry, the cost of living crisis and recession are going to dominate marketing for the next 12 months at least. With consumer spend expected to reduce, advertisers are going to have to be more effective and impactful with their budget than ever before, and make sure they can have the data to support the hard conversations with the CFO.

Advertisers and brands will need to gain a deep insight into the exact impact of every penny spent, as well as the ability to pivot quickly if they see the opportunity arise.

For both of these to be effective, brands will need to get a handle on their data. Realtime reporting, fully customisable solutions and the ability to easily compare data sets will be top of the shopping list for all brands looking for a truly modern media management solutions.

What’s next for Redmill Solutions?

As we head into turbulent waters, we want to offer marketers and brands more powerful solutions for broader marketing management. We are already incorporating shopper marketing, eCommerce, and retail sales data into the platform.  With this in mind, our next evolution will see us enhancing our solutions with full funnel planning & analytics tools, incorporating additional data streams and the features required to facilitate digital platform buys.

After more than ten years of operation, Redmill already has a fantastic client base and truly unique offering in market. I’ve loved adding my skills to the existing team and hope to help more brands harness the true power of their data.

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