Case Studies: The Big Rewards of Big Data

A problem well defined is a problem half-solved.

—John Dewey

Up to this point, we’ve defined Big Data and its elements. We then described many of the technologies that organizations are using to harness its value. Now it’s time to see some of these technologies in action. This chapter examines three organizations in depth, exploring how they have successfully deployed Big Data tools and seen amazing results. Let’s start with a company that makes handling Big Data its raison-d’etre.


How do advertisers reach their target audiences online? It’s a simple question with anything but a simple answer. Traditionally, advertisers reached audiences via television based on demographic targeting. As discussed in Chapter 2, thanks to the web, consumers today spend less time watching TV broadcasts and more time in their own personalized media environments (i.e., their own individual blogs, news stories, songs, and videos picked). While good for consumers, this media fragmentation has scattered advertisers’ audiences. Relative to even twenty years ago, it is harder for them to reach large numbers of relevant consumers.

But just as the web lets consumers choose media more selectively, it lets advertisers choose their audiences more selectively. That is, advertisers need not try to re-create the effectiveness of TV advertising; they can surpass it. For example, an hour-long prime-time show on network TV contains ...

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