by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) Everyone is talking data but nobody knows what it means. Last year I found my most-powerful tool was the one-slider data visual that cut to the chase. I also realised the other day that I buy The Economist for the pictures — not the photos but the brilliant way data is visualised.

Tells the story

Every single data visual is put together in a way that tells the story without needing to read the article. Fascinating X and Y axes plotted against each other and the resultant data points show compelling insights and trends. Every kind of topic is tackled, from political skews in the voting of Supreme Court Justices and where most penalty shootout goals are aimed at in football world cups to historical trends on what occupations university graduates end up in.

Media is rich in data and the habit has been to overwhelm clients with as many graphs as possible. Maybe this is an historical legacy of trying to make up for the tap dance of selling a creative idea that normally precedes a media presentation?

Even worse, the graphs presented are usually one dimensional and don’t say much more than the very obvious.

“Aha” moment

What I’ve discovered is that there’s normally one key shift that needs to happen in a media strategy. It might be a tactical tweak in TV-programme selection, or a fundamental shift to move all media investment into digital. Whatever it is, this is the “sell” part of the presentation and, like a legal case, the facts need to be presented in an open-and-shut case. This is the “aha” moment, where clients should be vigorously nodding their heads, totally convinced about the new direction.

This is where the one slider becomes impactful —a visual representation of the one fact that will win the argument just by looking at it.

I recently put up one slider for a retail brand which showed how higher radio audiences mid-morning (as opposed to morning drive) on Western Cape stations meant that the cheaper rates at 11am were much better value for money. The opposite applies in Gauteng, and this simple visual led to a fundamental shift in strategy.

Most-relevant moments

Media is all about trying to find the most-relevant moments for the audience and the brand.

A useful trick which I use often is to do a four-quadrant graph which maps brand message against consumer insight. The top right-hand quadrant is the moment of highest relevance, where message meets insight; the bottom left, the most “irrelevant” moment. I then populate with the environments the brand should and shouldn’t be in. It’s a simple mechanic but it’s the one slide in every presentation that provokes the most conversation and gets to the heart of the strategy.

The discipline of using data in a simple, single-minded and interesting way is highly recommended. Less is definitely more.


Martin MacGregorMartin MacGregor (@MartMacG) has been managing director of Connect, the M&C Saatchi media agency with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town, since 2012. He has spent 22 years in the industry, having previously worked at Ogilvy and been MD of Nota Bene (now Wavemaker) in Cape Town. Martin contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to

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