Stuck in the Eighties: Why Marketers Still Don't Get Big Data

Data Driven Business Day, Grand West (NY Hilton)
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Using large amounts of data has been around for decades. From early BI reports, to the first days of online commerce, much of what we call Big Data isn’t particularly new. The accepted wisdom from the very beginning of the Web was that the internet would change everything—media, marketing, commerce, communications.
In some ways, that promise has been fulfilled, sometimes in unexpected ways. Google and Wikipedia have given us access to the world’s information, Amazon has transformed commerce, Facebook has connected us more indelibly to current friends and past acquaintances, and Twitter has given us an instantaneous crowdsourced news feed.
So why are marketers still trying to find their audiences using the clumsy tools of traditional media, such as demographics, attitudes, interests, context? Why are marketers embracing Big Data only superficially, relying on coarse clusters when we can target and optimize with surgical precision?
The stories that big marketers have always told themselves about what characterizes their customers are comfortable and familiar and useful for buying TV and print advertising. But big data argues for abstracting that audience in a way that marketers tend to find threatening. In this session, Tom Phillips will challenge current marketing methodologies, arguing that in an era of big data, it’s time for the machines to take over.

Tom Phillips


Tom Phillips is CEO of Media6Degrees (m6d), a marketing technology company that captures brand signals from major marketers to deliver high-performing ad campaigns.
Phillips was founding publisher of Spy magazine in 1986, the original media chief for Starwave Corporation in 1993 (creators of,, and, and CEO of in 1998. After a stint as a venture partner at Insight Venture Partners, he joined Google and managed media platforms and the DoubleClick integration before establishing the Search & Analytics team to pioneer new uses of Google data on behalf of major advertising clients.
Phillips holds a BA in applied mathematics from Harvard and a MBA from Stanford.


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