Creatives shouldn’t worry about being replaced by an algorithm, but they do need to embrace data, according to The Drum’s Data-Driven Creative panel in partnership with Publicis Groupe and Adobe held in Cannes.
“An algorithm cannot come up with the perfect gift for your wife,” said Stephan Beringer, the Publicis Media data, technology and innovation practice chief, who went on to warn that slavishly trusting in targeting data could lead brands all down the same path, whereas the secret to engaging people lies in creative disruption.
According to Rachel Bristow, director of client partnerships and collaboration at Sky Media, meanwhile, the most powerful data-driven tool is a human being.
Both observations were relevant in a panel that threw up plenty of cases of good marriages between creativity and data, such as ‘Slow Down GPS’, a Lions entry named by one panellist as his favourite example.
An insurance company (Scandinavia’s If Insurance) created a satnav option that, when the driver nears a school, changes the machine’s voice to a child’s as a subtle cue to slow down.
SapientNitro global chief creative officer Donald Chesnut, who provided the example, told the audience that the abundance of data “has opened up new opportunities for creatives to think about the world differently”.
He offered another example in some of his own agency’s work for Chrysler’s Jeep brand, which originated in a straightforward request by the client for the agency to add some basic data to its digital channels about the towing power of its vehicles.
“Our creatives thought, embedded in this data is a really fantastic story, how can we bring it to life? And the work that came back was incredibly experiential and talks about how far you can go and what you can do with your car.”
Scott Ross, DigitasLBi chief technology officer for international markets, held that “a lot of creatives have been waiting for data to catch up”.
Elaborating, he said a lot of creatives like to test their hypotheses and are increasingly using data to help “way-find” before launching a campaign – a technique also described by Beringer as “rapid prototyping”.
“Our creative team were working on an idea but they weren’t sure whether or not it was right for our particular hotel client. We quickly got our data science team to do some analysis of TripAdvisor and geo-tagged social media posts, and prove the unique insight that the creative team had, allowing us to do a far more effective campaign.
“Data is important in backing up the gut instinct that you’re always going to have with creative.”
Bristow added the example of how data was boosting the relevancy of advertising from hay fever treatment brand Piriteze.
Using Sky’s addressable TV product AdSmart and introducing weather data to fine tune when ads are and aren’t shown, Piriteze have found a “simple and easy way” of using data to switch their campaigns on and off.
From the world of branded content, Mary Gail Pezzimenti, vice-president of content creation at AOL’s Partner Studio, explained how, for US brand Secret, her team researched data on how millennial girls feel about asking for a pay rise and how they connect with older woman, to create a humorous campaign.
Brands and agencies can get an edge by finding new sources of data, argued Chesnut. He outlined how SapientNitro has created a jointly-funded team with a major US retailer that tests hypotheses about shopper behaviour using data collected (within privacy limits) from smart devices.
“The challenge is to find within all the data coming at us those few data points that help us understand. We realised mothers in the stores were giving their phone to their kids to keep them busy, so we started working out what we can do to engage both.”
Another indication that agencies are changing their organisational structure to reflect the need for data came when Beringer explained the evolution of Publicis Groupe into a platform that its agencies and even third parties can “plug into”, as evidenced by its partnership with Adobe to deliver the Publicis Groupe Always On platform.
“We’re looking at Publicis Groupe as one big company that eventually will have one common cloud infrastructure and data model that our agencies can plug their tools and services into. It will also operate very much in an open source fashion so all stakeholders in the marketplace theoretically can plug into it too.”
Bristow agreed with Beringer that the industry is heading for deeper collaboration, saying: “We’ve produced what we believe to be our best work because we were there at the start of the conversation [with the client] and we were able to have the right conversations internally to bring Sky’s assets to the campaigns.”
SapientNitro has moved to encourage collaboration by sitting its creatives and data analysts side by side and focusing on cross-pollinating a data-focused approach when training people in general, according to Chesnut.
“If you’re not thinking about data you’re probably not doing your job correctly, whether you’re a creative, account person or technologist,” he said.
At AOL, Pezzimenti assembles bespoke teams for clients composed of content creators able to use data and insights as a tool to help engage the particular audience the client wants.
“We look to hire people who are expansive in their thinking, who are very diverse, who can create a great piece of content but also dive into data and strategy and geek out on learning about their audience. It’s very different compared to five or 10 years ago.”
Beringer had the last word, summing things up with the phrase: “You innovate because otherwise you stand still and you die.”