Inicijativa „Digitalna Srbija“
Marketing is one of the areas of business that technology is changing on a large scale. Digital media, social media, and augmented and virtual reality are changing the way marketing agencies work every day. Direct Media United Solutions’ Data&Communications Director Marija Matić talked about the technologies used in modern marketing and the need for continuous learning and adapting in an interview for the Digital Serbia Initiative.
How did you learn about everything that the digital world offers? What kind of insight does education provide and what does modern marketing teach?
I entered the world of marketing from a technical college. Our country has no school or college for media planning — which is what I was doing. Since data and numbers were always at the center of our work, it was understood that a technical school could provide the foundation, logical thinking, working with numbers and formulas, broad mind… Nevertheless, practice and concrete work are actually the best school. And I’m still learning. Marketing provides the opportunity for everyday progress, especially when you’re dealing with the constantly changing world of media. One of the most important changes in modern marketing is the emergence of digital media. Particularly important is the process of media fragmentation that started ten years ago and that is now considered to be complete and that left a strong mark in both the media and our industry. Unlike before, media fragmentation led also to the fragmentation of the target audience that we can reach through different communication channels. Today we can reach them on social, digital, and traditional media.
You graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. When you were starting out, you were surely asked how come you ended up in marketing. Now we’re at a point where people who are good with numbers are welcome in your industry.
They say that advertising used to be for Mad Men, and now it’s for Math Men. And it’s really like that. The entire advertising industry — especially because of digital — is moving to make everything you do and every ad’s effect measurable. This isn’t new, but digital made a big step forward in that field. Numbers are increasingly important, as are efficiency and measurability. People who are good with numbers do well in advertising, especially the part we deal with. And that’s communication and media planning.
Still, figures don’t rule out good ideas and creativity?
Not at all. We always say that our work is one of those that combine the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Science and art. For example, my role is data and communications director, which includes research, insight, data, and creative work. This sufficiently illustrates the combination of skills needed in today’s marketing. You have to be equally good in all these areas to be successful at what you do today.
Right now, Direct Media is working on setting up an entirely new department — the Data Department. What is your biggest challenge?
We’re living in the age of data, which is particularly prominent in the media industry, especially social media. They say that data is the new oil. That’s why we needed scientific processes and methods to come up with findings and conclusions based on the large amount of different data available. That resulted in data science. The biggest challenge is applying our domain knowledge within mathematical and computer methods. There are so many ways to use these data, it’s simply endless. I’m not thinking just about marketing, I’m thinking about nearly every area of life. Exceptional potential and opportunities for development that ultimately results in better understanding of people’s behavior and needs.
How can data science profile the target audience, launch the product, and extract information that make the advertising campaign do far better than without its implementation?
Direct Media has always been a data-driven agency — we always tried to make all our decisions based on the data we have. Now, data rules across marketing. Digital made incredibly large amounts of data available to us. We’re talking large amounts of new, different data coming in at a fast pace. There can be data about everything people are doing, talking, or buying. For us it’s important to analyse consumer behavior and find solutions to get messages to them in the most efficient ways. The goal is for messages to be in the right places at the right times. I have to point out that this is a transparent process, especially after the EU’s GDPR, which we strictly adhere to. Data must be protected, it must be clear where it is stored and with consent. For those who give that consent, data analysis is what allows the message to be in the right place at the right time, as well as the client to tailor the message to the interests of that particular person or group of people.
What are some new professions in your industry brought about by this technological revolution?
Digital has changed many things. When digital entered marketing, a whole slew of new occupations were created. Now we have the traffic manager, digtal specialist, digital planner, and digital account manager. Another entirely new line of work is the insight manager, and the latest is what we’re doing now — the entire data sector. We will now have data scientists and data analysts. These used to be inconceivable for an advertising agency. Although this is a new area, no one will be surprised if you say that you have a data department. Soon this will be typical in our industry.
What kind of knowledge is needed for these professions?
A combination of different knowledge and skills. Nowadays, advertising requires multidisciplinarity. Of course, we can’t expect one person to know everything, but we can create a team that has as many diverse skills and knowledge as possible. For someone who works with data, math skills are certainly very important, but so is domain knowledge, knowing the profession and the industry. It is precisely knowing the industry and trends that guides through these data and enables finding high-quality conclusions.
Can you find such talent in Serbia?
We just had an opening and a lot of talented people applied. For the data team, good mathematical knowledge was important, but we also look to see how they would fit into the team as individuals. I can’t say that it’s easy to find the talent because the knowledge and skills are peculiar, and this industry also takes adjusting to. However, we created a truly good team.
How do your clients see data science and its potential?
Clients are always oriented towards the result, and the result can be defined through specific figures. They are aware that every area of their business should be measurable. Perhaps they still don’t know data science in the way we do, but they are well aware of it and want the work and success to be shown in numbers. The end result is the most important both for us and for them.
What will be the biggest challenge of modern marketing?
Certainly the development of technology. We are witnessing an unprecedented technological advancement. A completely different way of using the media and shortening attention span. Even when spending time with a media outlet, it’s increasingly harder to stay focused. Fragmentation of media and target audiences. These are all major topics of the global advertising.
Do you think that marketing accepted changes on time?
In marketing, the consumer — or target audience — is at the center of everything. In order to do our job well, we must first of all know the consumers, their interests, and keep up with trends. Technology has changed the way people live, work, and communicate, and we kept up. It seems to me that the advertising industry is among those that are most aware of new trends and most affected by technological changes, by social media and augmented and virtual reality.
Will some marketing professions become extinct? Will media planners be needed if we have the programmatic sale of advertising space?
There are those who believe that everything will eventually become fully automated. We already have machine learning and artificial intelligence. It’s not just in marketing, it’s virtually all industries. However, it’s certain that nothing can replace human creativity and thinking. Even when it comes to data, there has to be a person who will look at those data and interpret them in a creative way.
Where is Serbia compared with the world?
We keep up with trends. Our economic power is such that some processes might be going slower than in the rest of the world, but we are really in step with all the important trends. The development of technology has erased boundaries at least as far as knowledge is concerned. Knowledge and technology are available here just like anywhere in the world. We need to keep learning and growing.