Tricia Clarke-Stone on Bringing the Cool to Data Analysis

Narrative Exec to Speak at Ad Age Data Conference on Oct. 8

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Tricia Clarke-Stone, Narrative
Tricia Clarke-Stone, Narrative

Tricia Clarke-Stone and her team at Narrative take a modern-day approach to studying subcultures on behalf of client brands like Under Armour and DeLeĆ³n tequila. The agency, which she co-founded with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, helps advertisers find musicians and entertainers with the right fit for their marketing campaigns. The goal is to take full advantage of today's data-heavy focus without forgetting to listen to what the gut says.

For Ms. Clarke-Stone, no matter how hyped up the concept of Big Data has become, it can't be ignored.

Looking ahead to her appearance as a speaker at Ad Age's Data Conference in NYC on October 8, Ad Age asked her about how data affects her day-to-day work, and learned that, to her, the most significant advancement in data has its foundation in tradition.

Ad Age: When is the last time you used the phrase "big data"? Has the hype diluted or altered its meaning?

Ms. Clarke-Stone: With the level of connectivity we've achieved, Big Data is not something you can avoid. But, that also makes it easy to hide behind. Relying on massive data sets from a wide swath of your target demographic allows you to prove almost anything, measure almost anything, and observe almost anything. But, how do you know what to prove, measure or observe? At Narrative, we're trying to impact culture. We're not just going to the zoo and watching how our target uses Pinterest, we're jumping in the monkey cage with a handful of bananas and seeing what happens.

Big Data is useless without that immeasurable, unquantifiable, classic advertising quality -- good taste. You have to know what's cool, if you want to really apply Big Data to your work. Because we all have access to all the information, the true power of Big Data comes down to how you use it. So, we constantly entrench in communities to see why trends happen, so we can look at Big Data and interpret it. We use it to prove what we intuitively know is right, and we use it as a creative platform, to drive our geniuses in directions they never would have arrived at on their own.

Ad Age: What type of data did you last evaluate as part of your job and why?

Ms. Clarke-Stone: Most recently on a client project in the entertainment space, we used a combination of social listening, new media measures, Simmons and Mintel reports to uncover human truths and insights around a teen and 20-something audience. We were able to understand more about who they are, what they're watching, what they're listening to, who they're listening to, etc., but more importantly we were able to read between the lines (and the data) to understand what was missing for them when it came to entertainment. We already knew that content was king with this audience, but what we also learned was that the environments in which they consume content is equally important. Through integrating these disparate data sources we were able to conclude that teens and 20-somethings are starved for certain types of shared experiences that can exist in both physical and digital spaces. This learning influenced our entire creative execution and product development recommendation.

Ad Age: What's the most significant advancement in data related products or services recently that's had an impact on your work?

Ms. Clarke-Stone: To us, the most significant advancements in data-related products or services are online survey panels. While on the surface they are not cutting edge or very exciting, they are incredibly valuable and impactful. The scale and scope of targeting has dramatically increased results in a competitive marketplace which ultimately allow prices to stay competitive. Through advancements in this space, we have access to massive panels and can reach even the most niche segment in a couple of hours to test and iterate strategy or creative ideas on the fly. This has allowed us to test everything we do and quantify the results for our clients with a lot more than "we like this direction", or "it feels right." Because of this, we can preserve the creative, take risks, and have quantifiable results to make our clients more comfortable in taking those creative risks.

Ms. Clarke-Stone will speak about data and creativity at Ad Age's Data Conference on October 8.

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