By Jenni Baker | Assistant Editor - Features, Reports & Research

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May 19, 2022 | 9 min read

With tech-enabled, data-driven experiences now table stakes, how are agencies adapting and rethinking their approach in order to unleash brand creativity? To find out, we brought together leaders from WPP, OMG, VMLY&R, Iris and Braze at The Drum Labs to explore how the golden trio of data, tech and teams can drive creative effectiveness for clients.

In the rapidly evolving world of modern marketing, there is a growing need for agency leaders to adapt and rethink how to bring brand creativity through to consumers. But the challenge is manifold – how can you better collect, analyze and act on data to deliver positive business outcomes when third-party data and cookies are on the wane?

How agencies can supercharge creative effectiveness for clients through data, tech & teams

How agencies can supercharge creative effectiveness for clients through data, tech & teams

Doing so requires an understanding of what data is important and how it can positively impact creativity. Look for progress not perfection. Always start with the end goal in mind. Embrace the limitations. Use data with purpose. Have fun with it. These were among the key takeaways from a recent panel discussion hosted at The Drum Labs in partnership with Braze, a leading comprehensive customer engagement platform that powers interactions between consumers and brands they love.

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The panel, titled ‘The domino effect: embracing data, structure and culture to drive creative effectiveness’, explored the strategic impact and wide-ranging business benefits of using data to better underpin creative effectiveness – and the foundations required to enact this. Watch the full panel discussion above.

Joining The Drum’s assistant editor and moderator, Jenni Baker, to explore this topic, were:

  • Mariam Asmar, senior director, strategic consulting, Braze

  • Ben Essen, global chief strategy officer, Iris

  • Anastasia Innes, global growth director, WPP

  • Ben Richards, chief experience officer, VMLY&R

  • Saiful Ahmed, director, ad technology, Omnicom Media Group

Data: combine human hypotheses with analytical insights

A key discussion among panelists centred on the uniformity of data and the difficulty in standardizing reporting and interpretation. With different business functions reporting on different metrics or analyzing different data points, a clear tension exists between the immediate efficiency (i.e. cost per click) and long-term effectiveness (i.e. delivering results) of creative campaigns. Or, as Iris’ Essen says, we need to break down silos and better balance the human analysis of data with its strategic impact:

“The big step is closing the gap between those two forms of management of data – in particular, using strategic insights around data to develop hypotheses. So, when you're looking at the numbers, week by week, you're not just asking ‘did it work?’, but you’re asking which of our four hypotheses are true? Which ones should we be more focused on? Which ones should be less focused on? You need to bring that qualitative element into your day-to-day reporting.”

This is especially true at organizations where internal structures may not be conducive to a synergy between creative and performance, such as the misalignment of goals and ambitions between sales and marketing. Agencies that can facilitate such synergies are increasingly vital then from a data perspective.

“[Organizations] look to agencies to help them align not only their goals and their ambitions, but also themselves as teams and structures,” says WPP’s Innes. “That’s where a lot of the omnichannel, integrated agencies that look at the full marketing spectrum are able to offer real advice. It’s not just about how to adjust operationally but how to empower businesses to be able to do it themselves.”

Empowering marketing functions to rethink teams, structures and ways of working to best serve consumers can also have far-reaching impacts across different parts of the business. According to VMLY&R’s Richards: “The customer journey is the bit that aggregates data and people, and this really helps to align different silos of the business from a customer centric point of view. This can end up being transformative for businesses. We saw this on a campaign with Boots. They had a look at themselves and how they run and have changed the structure of their business to be more consumer centric – and that comes to life through data.”

Tech: connect the plumbing

Data plays a critical role in not only improving creative effectiveness but can help shape ways of working across the business for the better. However, the tech underpinning the collection and analysis of data is arguably just as vital. A writer may have a great story in their head, but without a pen to write it down, the story has limited value and application.

“When tech doesn't work, the first casualty is creativity,” says Braze’s Asmar. “If it takes too long to do something, or it's too complicated, or you don't have the right resources to, then it can be simpler to just throw something out there and hope that it works. But you need to figure out how to connect the plumbing – technology needs to be a facilitator of creativity and not hinder it.”

An effective and robust tech stack plays a key role in sustaining creative effectiveness, but this is only scratching the surface. Innovation never stops and this means a continual arms race between tech capabilities and the ability to meet ever increasing digital standards, accountability and compliance. Fall on the wrong side of the fence and campaigns may not be as effective as they ought to be. Get it right and both the business and the industry will benefit, says OMG’s Ahmed.

“Standards are critical to clients and what we’re doing is creating value through digital accountability and compliance audits,” he says. “By leveraging new data points available through industry regulators, we can then benchmark to improve quality. This creates value for clients, but also helps us improve the industry as well.”

This is particularly important in the current environment where marketers and advertisers have had to move from relying on third-party data to first-party data. It’s vital that tech lines up in this regard to enable scalability, but without compromising on the ever-tighter regulations at play in the space, like GDPR. This makes client education a priority when it comes to tech.

“Clients want scale – and how do you know how to scale based on someone that has already bought your product? That’s first party data and it’s an interesting one,” adds Ahmed. “But third-party data isn’t going away, you can still get your hands on third-party data. There’s an education piece for businesses: first-party data offers a great seed audience to grow from, but using the third-party data available at certain points will help you with prospecting or scalability.”

Teamwork: making the dream work

Technology may be the facilitator but it is still ultimately people that are coming up with strategies and running campaigns. Connecting siloed business functions is one step here to improve communication, but agencies must work to connect the dots internally and ensure disparate teams are talking the same language to deliver success.

“We’ve invested and spent time building a space and culture that brings people together. But when it’s informal that’s where I find the magic happens,” says Richards. “We can put people on human-centred courses, but it’s when you have people sitting next to each other in the office and they’re having passing conversations – that's the outlet. It comes down to better training, getting the right people, and having the right sort of environment that enables conversations.”

“There’s a real emphasis on humanity and people, with tech as a facilitator,” adds Asmar. “At the end of the day, it comes down to people who want to speak the same language, want to be successful, want to work together and who don’t forget that in this broader conversation of tech, teams and data that it doesn’t have to always be super serious. Let’s have some fun.”

The golden trio

It’s clear that creative effectiveness relies on all the sides of the golden trio pyramid. Data provides the evidence for hypotheses, technology, the conduit through which data is captured and actions taken, and teams, the cross-business collaboration and discussion that accelerates innovation and application of data-driven findings.

Embracing the golden trio requires a step change in mindset but agencies that can do so will be well placed to supercharge their client’s creative effectiveness.

For more insights on this topic, watch the full discussion above and keep an eye out for a further panel with Braze coming as part of The Drum’s Cannes-Do Festival in late June.

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