In a data-driven world, marketing and IT must come together

Like oil and vinegar, marketing and IT just don’t mix well. Never have. Since the two industries first met way back in 1994 — when a digital magazine called HotWire (an offshoot of Wired) played host to the world’s first display ad — these bedfellows soon set up shop in different corners of the Internet.

Today, they remain mostly segregated within the corporate offices and advertising budgets of the world’s biggest brands. Even as folks embrace data for everything from customer relationship management to testing the best news headlines,the traditional advertising industry is still happiest storyboarding sexy, high-concept campaigns featuring supermodels racing German cars against jungle cats in exotic locals (shot on location in Bora Bora, of course).

Creativity, expression and artistic license drive the industry. Data and analytics … not so much.

But as social media flourishes and marketers try to use it to their advantage, it’s really time to bridge the gap and get these departments speaking the same language, said Peter Kim, chief strategy officer at Dachis Group: an enterprise-focused, social-media consultant firm. During an interview Wednesday, Kim said the relationship between the creative and the IT side is the “same as it ever was,” but that needs to change, especially as consumers live more digital lives.

Big data, cheap processing and social media are changing the advertising and marketing landscape. IT has been quietly hammering away on advanced analytics systems and platforms to aggregate and filter data, while sites like Facebook, LinkedIn (s lnkd) and Twitter can provide exactly the detailed demographic data that marketers say they need. Put it all together, and you have technology that can spit out almost personalized advertising on one side and deliver quantitative measurements to gauge the effect every little marketing decision has on the bottom line.

Kim says there are three major issues keeping IT and marketers apart:

  1. Budget cycles. While IT budgets follow a three- or five-year cycle, marketing budgets are allocated on a quarterly basis. But getting processing power or software to process big data or manage business intelligence isn’t a cheap quarterly expense (unless you use the cloud). The two need to get more in sync if the departments are to work together to create campaigns and projects.
  2. And to justify what might be larger spending plans for more gear or technology, marketing has to have a means of showing executives how that will pay off. But to do that, the industry needs accepted metrics to determine the impact of social media. While we can measure display ads and click-throughs, there is no clear way to measure return on investment in the social sphere, something Kim believes is a big opportunity. Without metrics, brands can’t understand the actual value of social media and the best ways to implement social strategies.
  3. Finally, among some of the creative types, there is an aversion to big data. Getting marketers to understand the world of big data is a challenge, Kim said. And while platforms like Facebook and Twitter are giant storehouses of consumer information, information overload is a huge problem. Plus, “it’s boring, and on the back end,” Kim said.

Alas, identifying the barriers standing in the way is the easy part. Breaking them down is tricky. Can companies bridge the gap between marketing and IT? Should they?