ConnectWithCauseway, Democritizing Data, Acquisition Analytics
February 24, 2023
In our very first episode of the Connect With Causeway podcast, we’re joined by the CEO of Causeway Solutions, Bill Skelly. Find out about consumers’ media usage and how marketers are getting smarter in acquiring new customers and voters. Listen in to learn why Americans continue to be optimistic despite tremendous turmoil.
Thérèse Mulvey, Vice President of Strategy: Welcome to Connect with Causeway. I'm your host, Thérèse Mulvey, Vice President of Strategy & Insights at Causeway Solutions. We're excited to launch our new podcast to introduce you to Causeway and all the cool things we do. Our goal is to simplify the sometimes intimidating world of data and discuss how you can use it to positively impact your business goals. Causeway Solutions is a company made up of individuals who are committed to help simplify the use of data with a strong focus on acquisition analytics or put more simply helping you find that next new customer. But we're also opinionated, informed and always looking at trends, consumer behavior, and the newest research. Each episode I'll be interviewing a featured Causeway expert to get their take on the topic of the day. I will be joined by Lauren Kornick, our manager of strategic partnerships who will bring her unique perspective as well. So, let's get this thing started. A little bit about me. I have over 25 years of experience in media from TV to direct mail, digital data and analytics, as well as audience research. I've been at Causeway since 2020 and I love working with this fast growing innovative company. Lauren, tell us a little about you.
Lauren Kornick, Manager, Strategic Partnerships: I'm Lauren. I've been at Causeway for about six years, and I've assisted pretty much every department, and every position here at Causeway, from political data management, enterprise, and digital targeting, I am here in the office for the first time in a while, so this is great. I'm glad to be here.
Thérèse: Well, thank you Lauren. I'm glad you're here. In today's episode, we will share a little bit about our history. We're going to look at the latest trends in media, the record high ad spending that's being predicted for the midterm elections and introduce our CEO and founder Bill Skelly. He's going to give you his take on the importance of Connect With Causeway and navigating the current world of data and information. Bill, take it away.
Bill Skelly, CEO: Hey Therese and Lauren. Thanks for having me today and thanks for everyone for joining us. Let me tell you a little bit about myself and then about Causeway Solutions. I started this journey about 20 years ago. I know that that makes me feel a lot older than I really am, but I have always had the goal of getting out and democratizing data science. 20 years ago, I was working in politics at the Republican National Committee and my job was kind of like office space. It was my responsibility to not actually do the data work or do the political work. I was the guy that went down to the basement and grabbed the papers and physically walked them up to the political team and had to translate what was happening between data and analytics teams and the people who were using our data in the field. After about 10 years in politics, I started Causeway Solutions with the hope to do that same translation outside of the political sphere.
What I realized was there are a lot of really cool things happening in the world of data and analytics, but data isn't always presented in a way that's meaningful or actionable, and that's really what Causeway is all about. I named the company after a bridge because that was our role in the marketplace and that's really what Causeway continues to do today. We're taking really large data sets and really smart predictive and prescriptive modeling and helping people make confident decisions and create actionable roadmaps that they can use to acquire new customers or to grow their company the way that they intend. The democratization of data science isn't looking down on the role of data scientists or internal analytics teams for companies. We see ourselves as an augmentation to those teams. We can come in and help people look at data sometimes through a different perspective, sometimes being a fresh set of outside eyes, sometimes bringing new data to the table altogether because often companies get focused on their internal CRM (customer relationship management system) and that really creates an environment where you're losing the ability to look beyond your current customer and find new audiences, and that's really been our specialty.
I joke at times that we're really good at helping people sell spinach to people who want ice cream and it's really about finding the right audience and understanding what's going to get them to take an action you need for them to be successful. I am really excited about where we're headed, excited for this podcast, Connect with Causeway and can't wait to get started.
Lauren: Democratizing data is not just about politics, it's about selling that spinach essentially beyond politics.
Bill: Yeah, exactly. Lauren, I think there's a huge role for this and I'm super excited.
Thérèse: Thanks all. And I think selling ice cream would probably be the most important part of that. I always enjoy being reminded about how we got here, and I want to ask you an important question about something which becoming harder and harder to navigate, and that is media. As we know, my background is in media. I actually remember when there were only a few stations, and media planning was a lot easier. But between targeting privacy laws and all the options exploding in terms of the ways that you can advertise and the different platforms and the different methods, how do you help clients think about this topic?
Bill: We see our goal as helping people find audiences, and once you've identified the people that you want to talk to and the people that you want to acquire, that's when you begin to put together the media plan, right? Gone are the days where you assemble a media plan, and you just distribute your message in a large scale. Today you have to start with the people because everyone is consuming, consuming media, and quite honestly, tuning in at different times through different medium along the way and making things more challenging. Targeting is kind of a new expectation that the consumer has. We saw a Pew survey a couple months ago that showed that 68% of consumers disapprove of online targeting. They're skeptical or scared about their own data being used against them, but at the same time, in a different study that we saw from Zendesk, 76% of people expect personalized recommendations or personalized targeting.
So you have this weird dynamic out there where people want to see ads and creative that is targeted specifically to them, but they don't want to feel like they're being targeted from a one-to-one level. So it's really difficult for companies to navigate that, and that's where Causeway comes in, helping them identify an audience, helping them create the personalized content that will get a consumer to make the choice we want them to make, and then delivering it in a way that doesn't feel creepy but is personalized enough so that when they're scrolling through their social media or digital feeds, they take a second and stop and look at the ad you're providing.
Lauren: Yes, gone are the days where, oh, I'm watching something at 3:00 AM and I'm seeing an infomercial. Now if it’s 3:00 AM and I'm watching “Only Murders in the Building” on Hulu, I want a targeted ad. I want an ad that's going to sell me the new project management app that I've been seeing dozens of at this point.
Bill: Exactly. And a great example is how Amazon sells you content. You can go on and search for a slow cooker and you didn't even know you needed a sous vide machine, but the next thing you know it shows up at your house the next day.
Lauren: It’s the targeting.
Bill: Exactly. The targeting is getting super sophisticated, but again, the targeting alone is not going to get the job done. Targeting can get the ad in front of the right people, but then you need to make it something that engages them. People are saturated with advertisements and with information. They have phones and computers and televisions, which are computers. It's incredible. You have to really cut through the clutter and speak to them where they are with what they want to see in order to get them to take action.
Thérèse: Your perspective really aligns with our most recent survey Bill, and what both of you said is so true because we're used to targeting and we expect it at this point. We don't like the creepy factor, but at the same time we do like the fact that we're being served information that is important to us. I want to give a little background to our listeners. We do a survey every month of 1500 consumers and we measure their attitudes and behaviors. In the most recent survey, we ask a lot of questions about how people use media and to follow up on the conversation we were just having, I'd love to know what your perspective is on the results that we saw.
Bill: Like you said earlier, our results are really aligning with what we're seeing in those public polls and public market research white papers that are out there. We have 82% of respondents that say that they're more likely to pay attention to ads if they're targeted to their interests. That's huge. That's a majority of the consumer population that wants to go out and have something tailored custom to them. I mean, think about all of the information you see every time you pick up your phone or every time you turn on your tv. Something that is speaking to you is going to go much further and resonate much better in getting you to take some sort of action. But compounding it as we looked into those mediums, it's not a monolithic world. As you mentioned Thérèse, way back in the day when you had three channels and they all shut off at 11:00 PM to play the national anthem.
That's not the case anymore. Right now, we've got 87% of our consumers on some sort of streaming service. 88% have a social media account and 60% of those people are paying attention to ads at least equally, whether it's a social media, a web browser, traditional television, they're looking for information everywhere they are. You need to hit them across multiple platforms with really relevant information. And to make matters worse, with all the new streaming services, I think I feel like I sign up for a new streaming service every other week. They all have different audiences. It's not just buy the evening news anymore and passively be able to get your information in front of people while they're cooking dinner or doing homework. You need to target an Apple TV plus audience which is going to be completely different than a Paramount plus audience. You need to be able to onboard first party data and deliver that ad right to a specific person, not just by programming.
Lauren: And it's the same problem that Warner Brothers studios are having at this moment. Warner Brothers Discovery, HBO Max and Discovery+, two completely different audiences, age, gender, point in their lives. It's completely different. So, it's not even just targeting, it's just the stance of the streaming service world today. Netflix and Disney+ are adding ad tiers right now. So now it's not only that they're trying to figure out their audience as well, but now all of them mainstreaming service at this point are going to have an ad tier. They're all doing ads. They all have to figure out who are they targeting to, and marketers have to figure this out as well as data analysts do.
Bill: And what's unfortunate is by the time you figure out what's happening today, it's going to be completely different tomorrow. It's going to be constantly evolving to stay ahead of this industry.
Thérèse: Having worked in television, I have to say that it's pretty funny that everything's going to have ads now, so I just got to have to throw that in for the baby boomers in the audience. Speaking of ads, spending and advertising in general, there's a big event coming up in November and Bloomberg is predicting that political ad spending for the midterms is set to hit a record 9 billion. What is your perspective on that? I know you have a lot of experience in the political arena. Bill, where do you think that increase is coming from?
Bill: I think it's coming and it's going to be distributed across a lot of different platforms. I mean, there's going to be north of 3 billion spent specifically on digital ad spend. And a lot of that is also going to be on traditional television and now more and more on streaming services. The ad spend that you're seeing is all about getting a message in front of voters to convince them what to do in the midterm elections. And we're seeing that pick up now. One of the things that I think we need to be aware of, that advertisers that are looking at the political midterms need to be aware of is that just like we're saying, messaging has to be targeted to sell a product. The same thing is true with political campaigns, and that's why we've been able to take what we do in the political space and adapt it so well for brand and healthcare and retail work.
Back in 2016, we found that there was this group of what we call “Disengagers” on the Republican side. These were voters that came out of the primary, maybe they supported Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, and it took some time for them to get behind President Trump. They didn't come all the way home in some cases really until election day. And I think you saw a lot of that materialized when polls were a couple points maybe too rosy for Democrats. But on election day, voters showed up and did what they always do and voted Republican even though maybe they were not telling a pollster or telling a researcher that they weren't sure what they were going to do. Interesting to me is that this year we're starting to see that same phenomenon on the democratic side. You still have Republican, there's a bit of people that are or party anti-Trump, but on the Democratic side, you have that same challenge of voters who are still left of center, but maybe not tremendously pleased with what the president is doing in terms of the types of legislation he's backing or passing.
But at the end of the day, they're not going to vote for Republican. So what we're seeing in our internal data is a larger center, or at least what looks like a larger center or persuadable audience. In fact, overall now “Disengagers” make up one out of every five voters in the entire country, which is absolutely astonishing. So as this ad spend increases, what will be interesting to see is, are people just simply fanning the same partisan rhetoric that has been out there for the last couple years? Or is some group going to be able to find a way to cut through and actually talk to voters and capture the attention of all of these “Disengagers”? Cause voters really aren't sure. Our latest research showed that 19% of voters are still unsure who they're going to vote for in the midterms. They think the economy is a major issue. Obviously, President Biden has some favorability issues he has to overcome, but voters haven't completely made up their mind and they're sitting back waiting to see what types of messages come out in the final weeks. I think there's still a big opportunity. I just hope that all that spend doesn't get wasted.
Lauren: Yes, talk about wasted spending though. We were mentioning the 3 billion dollars of ad spend going into digital specifically, Axios is predicting the biggest increase going into CTV specifically just like those streaming ads we were talking about and wasted spending. I'm in the deep red of Louisiana, I got a political ad for midterms to go vote this November.
Bill: That's a great point. When you get beyond the broadcast, you have the ability to go pick individual voters out of states that otherwise you might not have ever played in. It's giving campaigns and committees more opportunity to go out and pick individual votes from here or there. And Lauren, to your point earlier, Nielsen just put out a survey that streaming services have just surpassed broadcast and cable for the number one viewed medium. So you're right, everything is changing right now and that change is going to just simply allow for more personalization.
Thérèse: I find the “Disengagers” really interesting. I'm sure that that's not only true in politics, but in other segments as well. People are inundated with information. I'm curious though, getting back to this study that we do. I know that we did ask some other questions that we found some alignments with in terms of the political segmentation. What are the other ones that you saw or that you found as interesting in terms of being targeted specifically? And can you speak to those?
Bill: Yeah, absolutely. What are the things that really stood out to me that maybe I wasn't expecting to see was the amount of optimism that still exists. If we look at people who believe that business conditions or their personal conditions are going to be better a year from now than they are today, that that's one out of every four respondents, right? 91% of them are concerned about inflation. So they are not sitting around saying, hey, everything is great today, but they are optimistic that a year from now things are going to be better. I think companies and political campaigns need to play on that. The American dream is still very much alive. People and consumers and voters really want to believe that they have the capability to go out there and make their dreams come true, make the American dream happen. That really stood out to me and Laurens comments about the ads that you get tie right in.
I'm sure they were gloom and doom and talked about the end of the world. We'll be here before you know it, and this is the most important election of your life. But it's really important to remember that there's still a lot of voters and consumers out there that are really optimistic. Good things are happening once we get outside the Twitter bubble or the mainstream media pounding fear into you. There's really a lot of optimism overall. 51% of our voters said that they believe their household situation's going to be better next year. There is an opportunity to break through and present people with a little glimmer of hope. And I think if any brand or candidate can break into that niche and if you can break into that, there's a huge opportunity to really get some people energized.
The thing that I love about what we do is it's evolved. It's not just data anymore, it's literally sociology now. It's understanding how people are acting and behaving and what they want to hear and what they want to see and the research, the capabilities that are at their fingertips, which is absolutely incredible. There's a lot of good things that are going to happen in data and analytics and this data-driven marketing. And I'm excited to be on the forefront of it.
Thérèse: This is fascinating information and thanks you both for sharing that. One of the other things that I found really interesting in the data was that optimism also translates to self-confidence, which often translates to purchasing. You may not actually have any more money than the other person, but if you feel good about where you are and where you're going, you're more likely to make purchases. To both of your points that you just expressed, it is really important to understand all the ways that we define ourselves influences everything we do. Thanks to both of you for sharing your perspectives as well as the most recent information. We have quite a lot to think about and this was really fun. From my viewpoint, what we all need to remember is to not make assumptions, instead look at the data and understand what each of the groups is thinking about. It is so easy to rely on the past, on our own perspectives. So many times you talk to people and they assume that whatever they think is what everybody else thinks. And that is the beautiful thing about research it allows you to understand how different people are and how different their attitudes are. Lauren and Bill, I would love to ask each of you to leave our audience with what you're thinking about after this conversation.
Lauren: I was thinking that digital ad spending has grown so much with, well, within my lifetime being one of the youngest people in the office, but just within the 10 years specifically, it's just growing and continues to grow. Targeting has completely changed. Selfish plug, I wrote a blog post about ad targeting specifically about who actually watches these ads, and it's interesting to note that social media, ad watchers are the biggest group. So that's a whole other segment of audience that I don't think we've thought about as deeply in the years before. But that's really interesting. And digital targeting is super important for all campaigns going forward. And as part of the digital team at Causeway, I selfishly hope they continue to grow from that point, but also I am interested to see where everyone goes from here.
Bill: From my perspective, I really think that it's important for people to be prepared moving forward as everything changes. Lauren, we were talking about whether it's Disney+ or these other streaming services, changing the way that they're offering ad services or whether it's new platforms that are going to be invented. It's going to be important for companies to have a plan and political campaigns as well, to have a plan and be able to execute that plan nimbly. There was a great podcast and an article that I read just the other day about some of the lessons learned from the CDC, and I've had my share of criticism for the CDC, but I thought it was a really great retrospective, and they were talking about how there were challenges, and the first was as an organization, when they were used to communicating outward, they were communicating through academic research to doctors and to trade publications, and they had never really had to communicate with the general population before.
And I think a lot of companies find themselves in that same position, whether it's an automotive company who only communicates with the population through recalls, or whether it's a retail association that only has to talk when they have problems or issues with their products. A lot of companies aren't prepared to talk one-to-one with consumers, and that's changing, and people are going to have to be prepared for that. There's a huge opportunity ahead for organizations to think about how they talk one-to-one with consumers, and there's going to be more platforms for them to do so, it'll be fun to see where this goes.
Lauren: They need to learn how to democratize data.
Bill: I think that's exactly right, Lauren.
Thérèse: Thank you! This was great information. I really enjoyed talking to both of you and also talking about all this change is such a big factor, and research is obviously in our minds, one of the most important ways to keep track of that. Thank you also to our audience. Thank you for joining us. We want to hear from you. We want to know if there something you wish we would ask in our monthly survey. It’s possible to get a question in, so drop us a line and let us know what you're thinking about. We hope you enjoyed our first episode of Connect with Causeway. Please subscribe to the podcast and tune in again for our next episode.
To learn more, visit Causeway Solutions to get started!