DAN Interviews

Data Is The New Currency And Currency Has Always Been Very Important - Gautamm Mehra

"All I do know is that its importance is growing by the day and organizations who won't be able to adapt fast enough won't survive even in a mid-term horizon," says Gautam Mehra, Chief Data Officer at Dentsu Aegis.

The Chief Data Officer (CDO) is slowly emerging as an important member of the coterie that constitutes the C-suite. Gartner reports that 90 percent of the large organizations will have a chief data officer by 2019. However, CIO&Leader is conducting a series of interviews in India to understand the evolving role of the CDO in organizations. We spoke to Gautam Mehra, Chief Data Officer at Dentsu Aegis in order to understand the dimensions of his role in media and advertising.

At Dentsu Aegis, can you list down three most important aspects of your job?
The three main aspects of my job include analytics and insights, data-driven products and building up a data practice across agency brands.

What role does data play in helping your clients find the information that they are looking for? Can you explain with an example? Can you name some of the tools that you use for data management, analytics etc?
Today for customers, it’s not just enough for them to know how many people viewed their TV spot or saw their digital ad; they want to know who interacted with a brand with a download, click, follow, like, post or hashtag. What role does data play in helping your clients find the information that they are looking for? We have built a large array of proprietary tech to enable marketers to have better data-driven decisions. For example, we recently used one of our tech products to improve the media mix between TV and Digital and not only improve their brand scores by a significant margin but also bring the cost of their lead generation post the brand campaign by over 80 percent. Data-driven marketing has the potential to extract greater ROI than ever before.

Can you state the importance of a chief data officer role in a vertical such as yours? Can you also explain the journey of data from being almost invisible to becoming one of the most important assets in an organization such as yours?
The role of a CDO is an extremely critical one. The saying that is popular among businesses now is that Data is the new currency and currency has always been very important. I think the journey has been very interesting for me. From flunking in math to getting my first job as a data analyst and then spending more than a decade running digital businesses to finally come full circle back to a data role! The importance of data cannot be overstated. But what I love about Data in our vertical is that it is not just about data management and insights, but using data as a multiplier to solve large scale business problems at the pace that wasn’t possible earlier.

You mentioned that you report into the CEO at Dentsu Aegis. How do you think it is important for Indian organizations to give data and the chief data officer role its deserved place in the C-suite?
We have Vivek Bhargava as the Exec Sponsor (CEO & MD iProspect) of the Data Stack and Ashish Bhasin who is the CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network, South Asia. I think it is paramount importance that a CDO is placed at levels where they can influence the organization as a whole, rather than be looked as a “Department”. Data plays a pivotal role in almost every vertical or activity a modern organization is engaged with and without having the ability to look at data as a whole for the organization, the role will never be able to produce the results one desires.

Finally, what does the future hold for the Chief Data Officer role?
I humbly submit, I do not know. To try and predict a future of something that is changing so rapidly and exponentially would be rather lofty. All I do know is that its importance is growing by the day and organizations who won't be able to adapt fast enough won't survive even in a mid-term horizon.

GO BACK