Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Meet the Revolutionaries: Bedir Aydemir, Director of Data, The Sun

New Digital Age (NDA) in association with LiveRamp, is spotlighting the men and women championing a data-led revolution in the marketing industry. ‘Meet the Revolutionaries’ focuses on the efforts of the industry executives helping to push digital marketing into a new era of data collaboration.

Here, Bedir Aydemir, Director of Data at The Sun, outlines how the new data landscape is going to impact premium publishers and buyers, warning that it’s time marketers got ahead of change and accepted the new realities.

Tell me about your current role.

I’m Director of Data on The Sun. It’s a new role, it’s only been around six months or so. I’m involved in anything that requires a better understanding of the data we’re generating, what we’re analysing, how we visualise it, the insights we generate from it and, ultimately, how we commercialise it. In the past, the core elements of publishing – commercial, editorial, and marketing – have been siloed. We’ve made great strides to break those siloes down and this role is just another example of how we’re really trying to tie those groups together.

Can you give an example of a time when you personally have helped to drive innovation? 

The purpose of all the roles I’ve had has been to drive innovation. When I joined four years ago the idea was to look at our data assets and see what we could achieve with them. We built data visualisation tools allowing us to profile our audiences to understand who they are and use those insights for commercial purposes. What became clear was that those insights were valuable to many more parts of the business.

Our innovation program called ‘Nucleus’ has expanded rapidly over the years. Made up of three pillars – discover, plan and measure – with the latter being the most innovative part over the next two to three years. Measure is about understanding the impact we had. As we move away from CTR and third-party cookie measurement, we’re going to have to become much more innovative around how we address the impact of what we’re doing through things like data partnerships and attribution models.

What are the most common challenges to innovation? 

At News UK we’ve been lucky, and all premium publishers have approached this in a similar way. There’s the old sob story that publishers allowed intermediaries and third parties to scrape their data and monetise their inventory without the publisher even noticing. That’s in the past. We’ve taken back control. Senior leadership has understood the potential value of data.

Publishing in general, though, has a structural problem that it’s very short-term as a business. It needs to overcome the way that it reports, period on period, year on year. There are basic numbers that every marketer uses, and they only want to see them going in one direction. Changing any of those metrics or any of those models is difficult to push through.

The way the programmatic, open market, real-time bidding ecosystem has been built is also murky, which hinders our ability to innovate. For innovation, you need transparency and the ability to test and learn. But that transparency is missing. That will change, but I suspect it’ll get worse before it gets better.

What tips can you offer others hoping to drive innovation? 

I’ve been blessed in that the C-Suite has understood the purpose and value of data and innovation. The time has come to take some leaps of faith, do some experimentation, take some risks. How you’re doing things now won’t work in 12 months’ time. It certainly won’t work in 18 months.

Marketers are very good at waiting until the very last minute to make changes. We saw that with GDPR. We need to get ahead of the game. There must be much better literacy around the impact the deprecation of third-party cookies will have, and to start experimenting to find replacements. That could mean working with new partners, new technologies and buying in different ways, using different signals.

We also must be careful. We must understand what we’re trying to do and what success looks like. What’s the value of someone entering an email address or clicking on a link? Some of these are very hard questions to answer.

How do you think digital marketing might evolve over the next few years?

That’s the billion-dollar question. We’re moving from a world of infinite eyeballs and impressions to one of scarcity. Quality impressions, environments, and real life, engaged users that can be tracked and attributed are going to become scarce. That’s good for premium publishers but for buyers, that could be a real challenge. Buyers are addicted to the vast inventory.

The industry has gone to great pains to maintain the status quo over the last 10 years but no technology is going to come to our rescue that allows us to carry on as normal now. The buy side and the sell side are diverging, and they must instead come together. There will be large structural changes. I’m optimistic about those from a publisher point of view, but it’s going to be an interesting 18 months.