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The media and entertainment industry is evolving at an accelerated rate. But what role will data-driven marketing play in this rapidly changing landscape, and how can media and entertainment companies use data to better track their ever-changing audiences?

Long before COVID-19, the media and entertainment industry was experiencing the mass migration online. The slow and steady shift of audiences towards digital platforms has been happening for more than two decades, so you’d think that most media businesses would be ahead of the game. However, over a third of media and entertainment executives say their company will no longer exist in five years if they don’t reinvent their business.

Nonetheless, the speed at which the industry is evolving is not slowing down, it's accelerating. Successful media and entertainment companies are starting to realise the value of data-driven marketing when it comes to understanding their audience and securing future growth, as 49% of executives in this space agree that they lack the technology needed to capitalize on digital opportunities.

Audiences are (Constantly) Changing

Audiences today are almost unrecognizable compared to just 10 or 15 years ago. From TV and movie streaming services to the proliferation of messaging apps and platforms like TikTok, we have a ludicrous number of channels open to us in our quest for entertainment. And an equally ludicrous number of devices to do it from - smartphones, tablets, laptops, smart TVs - the manner in which we consume content has irrevocably changed.

A recent survey by Facebook found that 94% of participants kept a smartphone on hand while watching TV, simultaneously browsing the internet and messaging friends while they watch the latest episode of whatever happens to be trending on Netflix.

Meanwhile, younger demographics have almost completely moved away from live TV, though nonetheless remain nailed to their large screens streaming online content, playing online games on their consoles, or cheering their favorite teams at the latest eSports tournament.

Naturally, such changes have been chaotic for marketers as they try to piece together and decipher these new and complex behaviors. Customer attention has become so fragmented, that both advertisers and publishers face an enormous challenge to find the right ways to spark engagement and establish a clear connection between campaign performance and revenue.

Digital Channels Are Not a Threat

While this might seem a threat to traditional media and entertainment, forward-thinking companies have seen an opportunity to diversify and expand their revenue streams, with many large media and entertainment companies already moving in this direction - compare Disney today with Disney 20 years ago.

The businesses that have been successful in this digital migration are those that have thought beyond the conventional revenue streams and business models - sports teams selling media rights to TV broadcasters or print media companies focusing only on readership figures - and instead found ways to enhance their offerings.

Artists combining live performances with video streaming, for example, are able to expand their audience (and ticket sales) beyond the usual limitations of time or geography. Print media using the wealth of online data at their fingertip have revolutionized how they attract and keep advertisers.

But making this shift requires a fundamental change to how companies approach their data, and this is no walk in the park. A survey by Wunderman, for instance, found that 68% of senior business decision-makers are struggling to bring their data, creative and technology together.

The Answers Are in the Data

One of the biggest challenges for media and entertainment marketers is getting visibility over both online and offline data. Infact, some 64% of marketers say that offline and online data are typically handled by separate teams.

Online, some of it is easily available in tools such as Google Analytics, but a solid part of crucial data remains in offline sources - stats for TV ratings and ad impressions, for example, or out-of-home advertising.

Fortunately, thanks to the ever onward march of technology, there are now simple ways to ingest impression data from offline inventories into a centralized location, making it easier to analyze ad performance and its correlation with customer behavior.

In doing so, it opens up huge opportunities for marketers. Media outlets can provide detailed views on their audience for advertisers across both online and offline inventory, advertisers can combine data from various media channels to understand which of them create the best return on advertising investments, and, across the board, entertainment companies can better understand and enhance their audience engagement.

Data Analytics Means New Opportunities

Sports teams and live performing artists can use data analytics to analyze multiple revenue streams and the impacts on audience behavior and engagement. For example, by combining venue attendance data with your digital data, you can drill deep down into the details of your audience and relay this information to sponsors and advertisers. However, you can then take it one step further and, for example, combine that data with weather data to show how rain or shine not only affects advertising and sponsorship opportunities, but also merchandise or hot dog sales. 

Bringing all your data into one place offers opportunities to analyze and test new ideas. It will also help you uncover relationships and causalities that you would have been hidden when looking at mountains of isolated, siloed data coming from individual sources.

As media and entertainment companies shift to new models and sources of revenue, having the ability to analyze your data to this level will play a crucial role with the newly acquired intelligence being fed back to and informing sales teams, sponsorship managers, and media planners, along with the rest of the business.

AI Getting in on the Act

Data analysis is just the first step in a wider initiative to gather key insights that will allow marketers in this industry to improve the customer experience and business outcomes. Equipping your media company, sports club, entertainment organization, or video streaming platform with the right marketing technology is paramount.

The sheer complexity of the media landscape makes any type of media planning extremely complex, especially with attribution becoming even more complicated. This is where technology comes to the rescue with the use of artificial intelligence. AI allows marketers to process and understand large datasets and automatically compare the performance of multi-channel campaigns.

With the help of artificial intelligence, you can not only do more with constantly reducing budgets but also uncover opportunities that lay buried deep in the data. One relevant customer trend discovered with the use of predictive analytics, that might have gone unnoticed otherwise, could be a game-changer for your company.

Future Proofing Your Business

The Media and Entertainment industry has been at the forefront of the digital transformation of audiences but, for many companies, a data-driven approach remains elusive. This is all the more remarkable given the increasing complexity of audience behavior, something that data analytics is ready-built to unravel.

Media and entertainment companies can find success in the evolving digital world by utilizing the data that is at their fingertips, to drive audience engagement and develop new revenue streams. But to get there, they need to start thinking more about data, and how they can use it to future-proof their businesses.

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Vladimir Ceric

Written by Vladimir Ceric

Vladimir is a senior marketer in Adverity's team, bringing over two decades of experience in creating content for technology companies. An engineer by education, a marketer by profession, and a technology lover by choice, he enjoys in combining his experiences to create clear and understandable content on complex technical topics.

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