An embedded BI case study for the marketing industry: Shedding light on a very dark, very comfortable room

The realm of marketing has long been considered a sort of murky, ‘dark art’. Never fully explained, exposed or understood – much less analyzed. Until recently.

Many of you are probably familiar with the famous words of John Wanamaker, creator of the contemporary department store and a pioneer of modern marketing, when he declared: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

The face of marketing has changed dramatically since that timely truism was uttered. And, like many industries and job functions, demand for greater efficiency, superior performance and Return on Investment (ROI) have led to closer scrutiny.

In the search to expose the optimal marketing mix, reveal underperforming channels, refine key messages and perfect strategy, organizations are beginning to increasingly explore reporting and analytics – embedded in function-specific applications or workflows – as the answer.

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BI software can track campaign performance to help you understand which strategies, tactics, mediums and messages resonate with your target markets and audiences. It can also help assess purchase behaviors, perform effective customer segmentation and evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing efforts to boost conversion rates and underpin future initiatives. There are many uses, even just within online marketing – such as honing advertising effectiveness, demographic and behavioral analysis, event research and analysis, or even content strategy refinement.

In fact, recent research from Infogroup Targeting Solutions – based on a survey distributed at the 2013 Direct Marketing Association Annual Conference, and published in 2014 – indicates significant increases in Big Data and analytics spending for marketing purposes.

“The survey findings indicate that marketers are moving from the information-gathering stage to the analytics phase of Big Data adoption,” said President of Infogroup Targeting Solutions, David McRae.

Of the 400 survey respondents, 62 percent expected their Big Data marketing budget to increase. According to the resultant report, Big Data’s Big Step: Analytics Takes Center Stage for Marketers in 2014, 54 percent of marketers have already begun investing in Big Data and analytics solutions, with that figure projected to rise to 69 percent by the close of 2014, and 88 percent within the next five years.

Of those who have taken the plunge, 61 percent already claim ROI. Sixty-two percent of organizations, who have only begun their Big Data Analytics marketing journey in 2014, expect to see positive ROI before the year is out, with 86 percent anticipating positive ROI within two years.

Integrated reporting and analytics solution for marketers

Two men who understand the potential benefits of marketing analytics are Bernard Braithwaite and Simon Gentry – the Director of Analytics & Information and Director of Strategy & Business for independent marketing house, Media Co.

This year, as part of Yellowfin’s annual BI and analytics conference, Think Tank, Bernard and Simon explained how Media Co has used the multi-tenancy and extensive filter capabilities of Yellowfin’s BI platform to create an embedded analytics solution for marketers, called Lightbox. Lightbox moves from BI to MI – genuine Marketing Intelligence Dashboards. These dashboards allow users to understand, in real-time, how their advertising investment is impacting the bottom line.

Marketing analytics that deliver real answers: An OEM Case Study

Download Media Co’s Think Tank 2014 presentation slides HERE >

Media Co’s Think Tank 2014 interview transcript

Bernard, what are your impressions of Think Tank 2014?

“Great bunch of people. A very diverse range of people – lots of OEMs, resellers and customers. It’s great to meet a lot of people asking excellent questions [about what marketing analytics can do for them], and it’s great to see some familiar faces from Think Tank 2013. Just seeing what’s gone on in the last 12 months, and the journey that people have been on, you can talk about what’s new and what’s changing.

“And, you can really start to connect to and create genuine networks. We’re starting to feel as though we’re part of a true Yellowfin club.”

Simon, so tell me about Media Co’s Marketing Intelligence Dashboards. Why is this a product that marketers like myself need?

“The complexity of data that marketing managers work with is really diverse. And it’s often really disjointed. [As a result], a lot of marketing managers have this big challenge where they need to collate a lot of disparate data sets and make sense of them.

“What we’ve done with Lightbox is, we’ve turned it into a place where that data can be joined together, and compared on a like-for-like basis. This enables marketers, and the businesses around them, to make better decisions about their advertising spend.

“The end result is that marketers using Lightbox are experiencing anywhere from a 15 to a 45 percent boost to their bottom line – they’re able to do more with less.”

Bernard, your presentation touched on Media Co’s journey in taking its embedded BI offering to market. So what were some of the most important sales, marketing and technical lessons learned?

“From a sales perspective, one of the first things we came across is that not everyone wants to know the truth [about where their advertising spend is working and failing]. And that can make for an enormously challenging sales cycle.

“The result, from a marketing perspective, is that we’ve really had to refine our message and simplify our approach so that [the potential insight that can be attained] is less confronting. Once we do engage with prospective marketing clients, and they [get over the initial shock and understand the potential value] and the ‘lights come on’, the outcome is brilliant.

“From a technical perspective, we’ve learnt some massive lessons in terms of trying to construct efficiencies around all those data relationships. There’s an awful lot going on, and to bring two very disparate areas of data together – let’s call it stimulus and behavior, to draw those relationships. It’s not classic BI. If it was classic BI, we’d be taking a dataset and interrogating it.

“Here, we’re trying to interrogate two, down to a very granular event level, and draw relationships across query-able data ranges. In other words, I can create my own rules. It’s quite easy to do on the whiteboard, but quite hard to get right in reality.”

Can you elaborate more on what potential customers have found confronting?

“What we see is lip service paid to ‘yes I want to understand what my marketing’s doing’ – my marketing ROI. When people are genuinely held to account – in an area of business that hasn’t been as accountable as finance, or [had access to the same] metrics [as] operational performance – it’s like trying to turn on a light in a very dark room that’s grown very comfortable.

“As a result, people say ‘yeah, yeah, I want to understand what’s happening’, but when you present them with the opportunity, many tend to shrink back. And that’s been a little bit disconcerting. So one of the ways we’re now approaching this is, rather than taking it to that very sort of confronting analytical analysis area, we’re simply pitching it [Lightbox] as an information platform.

“We’re in a position where we’re getting more advocates on board [who can demonstrate the potential value and help dispel some of the concerns].”

Simon, for anyone out there thinking of integrating reporting and analytics into their existing applications and processes, what’s the first piece of advice you’d give them?

“Get your data sorted, and get your data sorted. Get your data as clean and usable as you can before you [attempt to] undertake analytics. If you’re data is unusable, you can’t get any benefit or any gain. Get your data sorted.

“And, less is more. You actually don’t need as much as what you might think to generate some brilliant insight. So when we say ‘get your data sorted’, that doesn’t mean you have to organize your whole data universe [before you can produce any value] – it’s about sorting the bits that count.

“You get 80 percent of the value from 20 percent of the information. Then once you crack that, you move on and get your next 80 out of the next 20 – because returns on that effort will, of course, diminish over time [as you continue down that path].”

Bernard, the BI market is a pretty crowded place at the moment. So why did Media Co select Yellowfin as its embedded BI partner?

“There are a couple of core things about Yellowfin that were of genuine benefit for us. One that was really important to us was [connected to the fact] that we’re building a product with embedded analytics capabilities where multi-tenancy was crucial. Ensuring that we had something that was extensible, that was scalable, and that we could evolve over time [was important]. [The ability to support those needs] was a big consideration and a strength of Yellowfin’s.

“It has a cool interface. It’s easy to use. From a user interface perspective, people get it – they don’t need a lot of training. From our perspective on how to use filters, how to run reports, it’s super simple and easy to deploy. Our biggest consideration is how we train people to think about using the platform.

“We also like the collaborative development approach. When we’ve had development issues and [custom] requests, we’ve been able to actually talk to the people who can make the difference. If we’d taken on Tableau, or [someone else], and needed something done, if it happened in three years we’d be lucky. With Yellowfin we can talk to the people that count, and explain our needs, have that assessed and, as we’ve found over the last couple of years, get the crucial things that we needed to be done completed so that we could move forward. That’s been super important.”

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About Bernard Braithwaite, Director of Analytics & Information at Media Co

An ex-Sales and Marketing Director, Bernard has more than 20 years experience working in a wide range of businesses and industries in both New Zealand and Australia, with a particular emphasis on services organizations. Past roles include Air Canada, United Airlines, O’Brien Glass, and Smith&Smith.

Data planning and structured challenging thinking are his particular areas of expertise, which have been key in managing and developing data and reporting, in order to create the sophisticated analytics solutions in use today.

Bernard’s core objective: “To deliver information and insights that drive an unfair competitive advantage for our clients.”


About Simon Gentry, Director of Strategy & Business at Media Co

Simon has more than 20 years of marketing and media experience, in both the UK and New Zealand, working across a range of industry segments and with organizations as diverse as British Gas, Spicers Wealth Management, HSBC and New Zealand Post.

His strong record of innovation and business improvement, coupled with diverse marketing and advertising knowledge, have been instrumental in refining the reporting structures Media Co uses in their analytics approaches. These approaches ensure practical, commercial outcomes are delivered simply for use by non-technical end-users.

Simon’s over-riding focus is on “Creating advertising and marketing strategies and programs that grow shareholder value.”


About Media Co

Media Co is New Zealand’s leading specialist advertising and marketing analytics house. Providing leading-edge media and analytics software, Media Co’s purpose is to provide critical information and insights that optimize advertising effectiveness, because “your advertising investment shouldn’t be an exercise in hope and belief”.

For more information, visit

About Think Tank

Think Tank is Yellowfin’s annual BI and analytics conference.

Think Tank offers outstanding learning and networking opportunities, with two days of best practice and case study presentations, as well as technical training seminars.

Sessions run across multiple dedicated streams, tailored to your needs. Whether you’re a user, software or reseller partner, or just someone searching for in-depth insight from industry experts, Think Tank is for you.

  • Actively participate in interactive training sessions to boost your Yellowfin skills
  • Hear from industry thought leaders and discover how to harness the future trends of the analytics industry
  • Learn about proven Yellowfin and analytics best practices
  • Network with your peers and explore successful BI use cases

“Think Tank is a tremendous opportunity to share in our joint experiences, underpin our future successes, and better understand how BI and analytics can help achieve your business goals”

– Yellowfin CEO, Glen Rabie

About Yellowfin

Yellowfin is a global BI and analytics software vendor passionate about making BI easy. Founded in 2003 in response to the complexity and costs associated with implementing and using traditional BI tools, Yellowfin is a highly intuitive 100 percent Web-based reporting and analytics solution. Yellowfin is a leader in mobile, collaborative and embeddable BI as well as Location Intelligence and data visualization. For more information, visit