By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

So the verdict is in: Budweiser won the Super Bowl commercial competition again with a sad puppy ad. This is a $9 mil investment (just in fees to NBC) and I am sure it will pay off handsomely with a temporary increase in sales of beer (which may have risen anyway during this time of the year, with the cold weather, football season, fantasy football season, male camaraderie in pubs all over the US, etc…).

It would be interesting to find out if, say Heineken or Coors or Samuel Adams, sell LESS beer during this same time (since they didn’t spend untold amounts of cash on puppies and horses). If not, they are the smarter competitors in my book.

The Fear Cycle that Leads to Poor Use of Strategic Intelligence

Enthusiasts of hyped up, data-driven marketing will probably like to forget this year’s commercials. It was quite obvious that all big marketers used the same basic “big data.” That data apparently showed that the US public mood is against “risque” and for uplifting, positive, G-rated messages. Companies buy the same data from the same vendors (Nielsen, Euroemonitor, Gartner, IMS, etc) and marketing agencies run exactly the same regressions and clustering analytics on the same social data sets, etc., etc.… it’s the nature of technology – it gets diffused quickly.

The result of “big data” becoming ubiquitous and mindlessly applied, makes for one boring convergence of poor strategic intelligence. The one advertiser who bucked the theme of happiness, probably unintentionally, got criticized. Actually, Nationwide might have benefited from more name recognition for the buck than others, but I bet they quietly fired their data provider agency.

Once you understand that it is insight, not mindless crunching of data that makes all the difference in the long term success of companies, you should look not at Anheuser-Busch or Pepsi, but at Taboola.

Well-Used Strategic Intelligence: Taboola

Taboola is a 7 year old Israeli company, founded by Adam Singolda, which just raised 117 million in new financing. Its name comes from Taboola Rasa, Latin for clean slate. Its product is the ubiquitous “you might also like” recommendations that appear at the bottom of almost all on-line stories. Presently, Taboola claims to provide 200 billion recommendations monthly, to 550 million unique visitors. Taboola reaches more US desktop users than Facebook!

Here is what Singolda said in a recent interview in USA Today:

“The (online) advertising market is $120 billion a year. Primarily, search (advertising) is half, and display (advertising) is the other half. As we move towards mobile, display is going to be much less effective. The storytelling type of ads will be a big part of the future – a third category that is going to be called discovery. What keeps me up at night is building this third category.“

Now go compare that strategic intelligence perspective (strategic insight on opportunity) to paying millions for data crunching to deliver a sad puppy for a third year in a row. Especially when data actually show that consumers don’t trust advertising.