It feels like a big shot in the arm that Howard Covington, the investment banker and mathematician, was appointed chairman of the Alan Turing Institute for Data Science in London this week. The institute’s opening last year was kind of an acknowledgement from on high that big data and the world of digital marketing mean more than an algorithm that says “I see you’ve bought Eminem’s first album. You might also like Eminem’s second album.”
Data science is big, economy-driving stuff and a massive contributor to the UK’s creative industries, like ours, being regarded as worth some £77 billion to the UK economy. Having a city financier who is also a noted academic at its helm further bridges a gap between pioneering research and cutting-edge enterprise.
Big data matters because it jigsaws together a bigger picture
Swinging scientists and cool creatives
As a digital marketing agency in London we’re part of that recession-busting fraternity broadly known as ‘Silicon Roundabout’.
I should say Silicon Roundabout’s more of a media moniker; it’s meant to sound like Silicon Valley. We’re not actually on Silicon Roundabout. That’s in London’s Old Street – an area that used to be cool. Southerly’s based in Battersea, which is more due to be cool. It’s up-and-coming cool, once they’ve finished gutting Battersea Power Station and turned it into a semi-permanent music-festival-cum-multi-storey wine bar (the cool people are already flocking this way mind, mark my words, we are way ahead of our time).
The Alan Turing Institute, meanwhile, is based in King’s Cross, which used to be horrible. Not so now, though. Now it’s the hub of the government’s Knowledge Quarter, which includes innovation enterprises, world-leading scientific research facilities and the British Library. All of which is cool.
Mr Covington told the Financial Times this week that the institute will focus on “leading edge scientific research. Right behind that is getting the research out into industry to solve commercial problems.”
In other words we are a country that exports cool and creative. The Knowledge Quarter does the research and the Silicon lot turn it into business. Big data matters and we’re now at the precipice of establishing what specific data matters and why.
The UK’s creative industries are worth some £77 billion to the UK economy
How big is the data?
Many company owners and marketing managers find the words ‘big data’ to be rather overwhelming. As a digital marketing agency we know that big data and great content go hand-in-hand. Data mining is what drives our content in a lovely meeting of the left and right sides of the brain: of maths and imagination.
The Content Marketing Association (CMA) recently surveyed its members, with 90% saying they use data to inform their content strategies and 83% intending to use even more in the near future.
That said, the CMA’s members revealed that a third of clients still don’t give their content creators and agencies access to some key data.
This feels like the result of over-guardedness. When it comes to marketing, PR-wary corporations, understandably, are traditionally inclined to let out only titbits of information for fear of being left vulnerable.
Thing is, we’re not in a traditional world. We’re in a world of transparency where absolute trust is the currency that pays.
As a digital creative agency it’s our job to bolster that trust and purport that transparency in a way that piques the public interest above and beyond the competition.
As such, we need to be trusted by the client to make the right judgement call in what we create based on the data available. Big data matters because it jigsaws together a bigger picture, and we can’t see that whole picture if there are missing pieces.
The point is that science and creation have, in this context at least, become one, and that’s what drives our economic growth.
The days of cagey PR are gone. We are now scientists that discuss openly our results, we’re creative engineers that innovate based on those results, and we’re entrepreneurs that make that into sustainable business.
That the government has sought to strengthen the core of the UK’s Knowledge Quarter with exactly this ethos in mind goes to show how important it is that we, as members of the UK creative industries, continue to innovate in the way we do. If we’re not using every ounce of data to create groundbreaking new solutions then we’re being left behind the rest of the world.
As it is, though, we’re out in front.