MIAMI BEACH, FL: Making smarter use of data and analytics can increasingly help brands take the "guesswork" out of marketing, according to a leading executive from Unilever.

Shawn O'Neal, VP/global marketing data and analytics at Unilever, discussed this subject at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2015 Masters of Measurement Conference in Miami Beach, Florida.

"What we're talking about here is a structure that fundamentally takes the guesswork out of the marketers' path. A marketer doesn't want to worry about what model, what survey, what testing technique," he said. (For more, including how Ben & Jerry's used analytics, read Warc's exclusive report: How Unilever takes the guesswork out of marketing.)

This new "structure" depends on fostering deep – and flexible – forms of integration between marketing, research, information and IT teams. And the results for tracking brand messaging could be profound.

"In this world, we run everything immediately; we're able to know [about] each shot within each ad and, with each situation, whether it's working or not working," said O'Neal.

This ability to get an instant read on whether an ad or viral video, for example, is gaining traction with consumers could shake up some long-established industry practices.

"Pre-testing and post-testing … are going away fast. Why would I pre-test if I can test something in real time in a week? Post-testing happens the next day," said O'Neal.

Similarly, the way media is bought and sold is likely to draw on a raft of data-driven insights. "I look at media buying and I look at it like stockbroking in the 1990s. How many [people] use a stockbroker anymore? I know I don't," said O'Neal.

These potential shifts provide just two illustrations of the much wider changes that are to expected be at work for major companies such as Unilever going forwards.

"The whole purpose of measurement analytics is to influence the way the business makes decisions through the use of facts, data and information," O'Neal reported.

Data sourced from Warc