The Rise of the Data Baron

Agency VP, Kimberley here. I recently attended MAICON – the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference, an event that was created to bridge the emerging world of AI and marketing. After two days of speakers, sessions and full-on nerding out, my eyes were sufficiently opened to the power and potential of artificial intelligence for our industry, as well as some aspects and uses of AI that I think we all need to have on our collective radar.

I’ll be diving into the potential usage cases and some surprising ethical issues in the coming weeks but before we can talk about AI, we need to talk about data. It was mentioned at MAICON – and I’ve heard it used since – that data is the new oil

What does this mean?

Firstly, the data we’re talking about here is any data that is captured by companies that track your day-to-day activity on and offline. Where you click, when you click, how long you spend on which websites, who your friends are, where you went to school… All of these are up for grabs and valuable to those who are looking to make money by finding ways to impact your purchase behavior.

Facebook, Google, Amazon, and many others have been tracking us for years and using that data to personalize their platforms to present us with content with which we are likely to engage.

Going back to our analogy, here are a few characteristics that oil and data have in common:

  • In its natural state, it is a mess.

Both oil and data are unusable in their raw state. It takes time, tools, and expertise to refine these to the point where they are useful.

  • Everyone is trying to gain control.

Global governments are at odds with the companies who produce these commodities. One of the most interesting fronts in global politics is how governments and producers are trying to agree on how to bring these to market in a safe and ethical way.

  • Consumers are at the mercy of producers.

Our lives have become dependent on products that are powered by these commodities. Cars, Facebook, our lives are dependent upon these tools to connect and communicate and go about our days efficiently.

While I took a lot away from this conference, it was clear that we are just at the beginning of the AI revolution. One of the key takeaways I brought home was that data is not to be feared. I went to MAICON expecting to learn how my job would become obsolete in the next few years and the opposite happened. As marketers, our jobs require creativity, strategy and perhaps most of all empathy. These are areas that AI hasn’t been able to crack (yet). Also, as users – and hopefully stewards of big data – there are ways that we can leverage the immense power of AI and data to streamline and simplify our processes while protecting the integrity and authenticity of our message. More on that soon!

How does this make you feel? Nervous? Excited? Creeped out? All valid. Have you seen the Great Hack on Netflix? Stay tuned for perspective.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, feel free to email me at if you’d like to continue the conversation!

Posted Aug 1, 2019 Category: Tags: , , , , ,