Interview: Talking CMI with the Director of Analytics and Advisory at Deep Focus Interview

Interview By Hannah Tregear on October 31st 2016

Deep Focus is a digitally led global creative agency founded in 2002 by Ian Schafer.

Part of Engine Group, the agency is headquartered in New York City with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Deep Focus proudly builds culturally connected brands, some clients include Frito-Lay, Nestlé, Purina, Alibaba, Microsoft, Samsung and Ubisoft.

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In our latest interview, we speak with Lucy Shon-Santana, who works from the agency’s New York office, situated in bustling Midtown.

Hi Lucy, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Can we start by talking about your role and what Deep Focus is all about?

As Director of Analytics and Advisory, I lead the analytics group for Deep Focus.

My role is to help our team develop the best measurement and analysis of our work for clients, ensuring that we’re using the insights we uncover to improve the creative process and show successes at the end.

Deep Focus is a digital agency that was founded on social media. We were the first to really understand social, I would say, organically. We leverage online insights. We use social listening, as well as platform-specific data, to drive our clients’ business. Our focus is understanding the consumer and customer journey.

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Our mission statement within Deep Focus is about culturally connecting brands. This is an area that analytics is a huge part of, in terms of understanding what the consumer landscape is and understanding the language our consumers are speaking.

With consumers so ingrained in their digital and social media life, we’re constantly trying to learn about users and understand their behaviors. This is how we help the agency build on its mission to have culturally connected brands.

Analytics sits within the strategy department. We work as an integrated team across various clients and capabilities within the agency, including creative, account, production and tech.

For us, it’s not just about recording and measurement, we want to make sure that our clients understand, strategically, ‘What this means for me.’ Are we meeting our business and brand objectives? Are we thinking strategically about how we’re approaching a challenge? How are we able to best measure and optimize for success?


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What other data sources do you blend together to glean insights for your customers?

One of the ways our agency has built our analytics practice has been on unifying different data sources.

We have a proprietary code that we’ve developed, where we aggregate all of our data. It’s about compiling and analyzing data from multiple sources to fully understand the bigger picture.

What are the types of problems or questions your clients want to know the answers to?

It could be any number of different things, depending on their business and their current goals. As an example, when a client is in a crisis situation or they’re having an issue where there’s an outcry of negativity within a conversation on social media, we can leverage social listening to help mitigate.

We also have alerts set up to track any emerging potential issue. We’re always having to dissect what is noise versus actual negative conversations. There might be a lot of shares around an article, but if there are people adding commentary to it, that’s an area we like to define for our clients.

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Once we better understand and are able to dive a bit deeper into what the data is telling us, we can provide recommendations on the direction they should go in response and we’re able to do this fairly quickly, like modify a brand’s website to ensure their message is aligned to what they’re strategically trying to achieve—making adjustments if the consumer landscape is not receptive to a certain message from the brand.

Do you ever conduct any more traditional types of research for your clients, for example focus groups?

Absolutely. We have a research consultancy at Deep Focus, called The ‘Intelligence Group.’

We work with them very closely, and often. We can access a custom panel for qualitative or quantitiative research to validate data and hypotheses, using it as a checks-and-balances system. We also leverage them for broader strategic assignments such as brand positioning, new journey mapping, and segmentation studies.

There is so much to learn about a person and what’s motivating them, and what might be driving their decisions. You don’t necessarily get it within a tweet or even an answer to a survey, sometimes, so it’s always good to cross-reference.

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What are some of the main advantages of using social insights?

It is very quick. It’s available as long as you know how to create a Query.

From a scale perspective, it’s easy to say to a client, ‘We’re seeing “this” amount of conversation about “this” topic in “this” month.’ You can even provide a quick benchmark or say ‘historically, we’ve seen this.’ To this day we provide a little bit of that qualitative context many of our clients are looking for.

Has there been a shift or themes in what clients are asking you to look into?

I’ve been working with social media and social listening for a while. I would say the types of things we’re listening for have expanded. There is also more willingness to look at social data. It was a good new novelty item at first. I wasn’t quite sure how to use it and determine whether it was insightful? Now it’s become commonplace and, if you’re not doing it you’re falling behind.

I’m often asked, ‘Well, what does that really mean? How much social conversation is actually happening in general?’ As we all know, there are limitations to querying and what is available through social listening data.

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I would say the one area that we do get a little skepticism from is in terms of whether we’re seeing the ‘actual’ amount of conversation. Clients know there is a fair bit of social media that’s not being covered by listening tools, particularly with the increase in messaging apps like whatsapp and the fact that communication is becoming more private or in the ‘dark social’ area nobody gets to see or analyze.

Right now there’s so much data that’s available around our consumers, and our brands are hungry for more. You can dive directly into research, already understanding who your consumer is. Then you can get a lot more granular, understanding consumption moments, psychographics and interests.

If you think about a forty-year-old man and an eighteen-year-old man, they may have similar interests – if, say, they’re into sports. It’s not necessarily about their age group but, rather, what their interests are. They may answer similarly in that way.

I think it’s interesting when you marry multiple types of data – mixing the traditional research, as well as social listening. Then thinking about the other types of consumer information that’s being collected about each and every one of us. I think that’s a really exciting space to be in.


A big thanks to Lucy for speaking with us. This interview is one in a series with industry experts, with more to come.



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