Smart, not Big Data: Jason Harrison

17 Jul,2015


In April this year, marketing services conglomerate WPP set up Gain Theory in India with an attempt to offer data analytics, technology solutions and consumer insight capabilities.  Gain Theory founding CEO Jason Harrison was in India recently where Pradyuman Maheshwari met him for an interview. Excerpts from the conversation:


It’s been a couple of months since Gain Theory launched in India. How has it been so far?

It’s been very exciting. We’ve had tons of interest and energy inside of WPP, which we’re a part of, as well as outside, from potential and existing clients, competitors, other parts of the industry and such. So far, it’s been really interesting and fun and busy.


WPP is a large marketing services agency with loads of clients. But you’re obviously going beyond the WPP clients…

Correct. While we have a few categories and clients that we’re targeting, we’ll work with any company that has the kind of marketing questions that we’re good at answering. Because we sit inside WPP, we have a few rules that we play by, so we try not to compete with our partners. Our preference is to collaborate wherever possible, and become very good at reaching out and putting together horizontal solutions across WPP, to be able to bring those to clients.


But they’re already doing a fair bit of what is your core activity…

Yes, that’s right. Gain Theory was set up inside of WPP’s media holding company, GroupM and we were set up as an independent data and analytics offering that would sit side by side with the GroupM media agencies. The point of doing that is so that we can be an independent analytics offering for clients who prefer separation between analytics and performance evaluation, and the actual planning and buying of media. We have existing clients for whom that’s an issue. So we only do the analytics and they work with a different media agency that may or may not be GroupM.


You could also have a situation where a GroupM client is being serviced for analytics by the same agency. In a sense, then, you are competing with each other.

We’re set up to not compete with each other. We try to not work on each other’s clients. Unless we agree in advance and work with one of our agency partners who has a client who has a unique problem that needs solving, they might bring us in on that. But in general, the focus and the emphasis is to work on separate clients.


What’s the appetite for analytics? Would you say it has grown over the years?

It’s strong and getting stronger. The marketplace is accelerating for a variety of reasons. There is increasing pressure on companies to better understand RoI in marketing, and there’s a variety of analytical players to help clients solve that problem. We’re seeing an inflection point in the industry that’s brought out by the availability of data. What we have now is an availability of measurement capability and just data points across the marking ecosystem that will make it easier for us to measure consumer response, the effect of campaigns and to use that foundation to use advanced analytics in a way that really hasn’t been possible until now.


FMCG majors like Unilever or Procter & Gamble have always been doing a fair amount of analytics. But the real growth for you would happen when you have home-grown players who also get into that, right?

Our source of growth will be both. We actually work for Unilever across 20 countries and do marketing, mixed modelling, data collection and advanced analytics for them in multiple categories across 20 markets. We’ll see growth from those types of clients. We’ll continue to work with Unilever and others like them. We’ll also want to work with anybody that is trying to solve the kinds of problems we’re good at solving, from any market where we’ve got a presence. The India market has tremendous potential and opportunity. Things are changing fast and there’s an appetite to try new things along with lots of innovation. Having a footprint in Bengaluru in the way that we do is tremendously exciting because we can potentially export some of the things that we’ve learned to work into other products and markets around the world.


In the case of data analytics there’s a lot of confidentiality, so companies may not want to share that with you.

I can’t speak for others but it hasn’t been a problem for us. We have data safe cards and privacy protections in place, and clients definitely put us under scrutiny on requirements around data security and privacy. And we’ve been able to measure up. We’re part of WPP, which is a world-class organisation that deals with the data of a variety of companies, sectors like e-commerce, banking and financial services, retail. We’ve been able to show successfully across WPP over a period of time, that we are good stewards of data. In order to get value out of the analytics that we do, we have to have sales data. If clients want the outcome of the analysis to help them answer questions, they’ll share the data with us.


Marketing data, people don’t mind sharing, but, sales data is something that…

We get sales data from clients every day. That hasn’t been an issue.


Are there success stories you can share about the marked difference that you’ve brought to a media campaign?

We have a bunch, actually! The work we’ve done for Unilever stands out as something that defines the way in which analytics can help a complex organisation address and answer questions around marketing tactics, pricing etc. Although Gain Theory has been [in India for] only five weeks old, we’ve been around for a while in the UK and US. We’ve combined around 50 years of having done this. There’s lots of history, maturity, capability that’s locked up in the company and under the Gain Theory banner.


What about talent? Are you able to attract top quality talent?

Certainly talent is a critical success factor for our business. Real good talent is real hard to come by. I think, this market is full of really good talent. So, we have some amazing super smart people in the India market and my hope would be actually, for us to continue to acquire…


Lastly, what are your targets and plans for growth?

Our plan is to grow, knowing the marketplace and the energy and the number of clients out there trying to solve those problems. Our hope is that our story will resonate and we will get involved in lots of client conversations. We have a good pipeline right now and hopefully, in some time, we’ll have gotten bigger.


First appeared in dna of brands on June 22, 2015


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