Back in the Mad Men days when David Ogilvy and Marion Harper were roaming the halls amidst the think Pall Mall smoke, whenever someone needed data, the research department was called in. Research was important. The quants were the drivers of insight back in the 50s — when American Demographic began publishing (I think).
Today there is nary a research department to be found. It’s the planning dept; either account or brand. Insights are the purview of today’s planning dept. BUT…
A number of marketing plans I have written for clients recently have included a line item for the hiring of a data analyst. Or a half of a data analyst. I was reading a story in the NYT today of missing black men, in the 25-54 demographic, and it dawned on me that data analysts are really needed at ad agencies. When I speak to heads of planning — at BBH and the like — they are interested in “quants” and data analysis, but it is not a core need. Maybe, when they’re working in digital it gains importance. But the top people are not jockeying numbers as a day job. (And they shouldn’t.) They should however, dial up their reliance on data analysts. And prep them with insights. It is an important component (pronounced COM-ponent) of today’s advertising. Use data to think like an ad guy.
As Mad Men leaves us, perhaps the research dept. of yore will make a comeback. Peace.