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Intelligence Briefs

What the f**k is data driven creativitiy?

Industry Contributor

James Proctor, Creative Director
One Small Step Collective

14 January 2020 4min read

We all know by now that data is important to market and decision making. In fact, I’d go as far to say the data should be the bedrock for any important business decision. But it’s amazing how few marketers use data properly. Sad to say, even fewer creative people do.

Key points:

  • Creativity takes bigger leaps off a tower built by data
  • Machines help us talk like real humans
  • Bad data costs business 30 per cent of revenue
  • Ideas at the speed of customers
  • Who’s doing it right? Examples and kudos

My Takeout

We all understand data driven marketers but what about the data driven creatives? What happens with an unholy alliance between creativity and data? Marketing armageddon? Nah, it’s pretty damn good actually.

Killing Don Draper

Back in the Madmen era, ‘creativity’ was that elusive thing that happened when you mixed expensive scotch, cigarettes and a shed load of time. Finally, the creative reaches an earth shaking brand epiphany (usually in the form of a pun). Problem solved. Sadly, and not so sadly, that isn’t how things happen now. The truth is, good creatives have always revolved around data.

Not in the way we know it today but more around general facts and figures that researchers and planners put into the brief. But those facts were often old and based on generalisations to fit over a broad target or just assumptions.

Today, we are seeing the emergence of creatives that embrace data built from multiple sources, laminated and layered to create a much richer picture of who we are talking to and what makes them tick. Yes, even more specific than ‘female grocery buyer 35-55’ .

Data is a platform built by the left side of the brain that the right jumps from

Three things are critically important here: Quality, access and interpretation.

Quality - Research firm Ovum estimates that a huge 30% of revenue is lost to bad data and in turn bad decision making. Make sure the data is real, appropriate and get it from the source wherever possible.

Access - This has always been a big one and the ‘democratisation of data’ is happening daily. In our process here at One Small Step Collective, data is the golden thread that runs through our process from insights to creative and media and everything in between. This unifies agency and client, creating a common language and common goals.

Interpretation - Data is only as good as the experience of the people. What the data says and what to do are two different things, the latter is where the gold is. What happens when you get these things right is the modern day magic. We build on deeper facts and insights the entire team know to be true. Building this base derisks the creative. It doesn’t make it any less creative, it just makes sure it plays in the right area.

Machines help us to sound more human

A big part of the data we use at our agency are huge public datasets like Brandwatch/Crimson Hexagon - 1.5 trillion pieces of data taken from public discussions and posts on the internet since 2008 (full and happy disclosure: we have a formal relationship with Brandwatch for the region).

What this means, is we get to understand how people talk and what they think about almost anything. Not in a moderated, research-y type way but in a truthful, unsolicited way. From this, we understand likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams but importantly we also get real language that humanises brands and creative.

It’s due yesterday

I don’t want to diss things like annual brand tracks and huge research projects that end up as a massive report that ends up being read by no one (okay, maybe I want to throw a little shade). But data that isn’t current, moving and evolving with customers just doesn’t cut it. Good data should be inspiring to agencies and clients, and the best data of all is close to real time.

Modern data should harness the power of machine learning, watching conversation and relevance in real time and reporting relevance. It’s not all about creating a topical ad, although the occasional one is still incredibly effective, it’s about speed of movement and speed of change. Getting in front of the wave of relevancy.

Examples and kudos

There are a lot of really good examples of data driven creativity. But I think one of the best, and most literal was Spotify's recent campaign that used its internal data to make ads about people and their music tastes. Even better, the campaign was obviously interpreted locally to further increase relevance. It’s a cracking execution that’s bang on brand, tone and look but more importantly humanity. This is a brand that is aware of who it’s talking to and of its place in their world.

Another example but in a different field of creativity is Samsung and its use of social and public data to drive brand and new product development. Samsung constantly monitors its product launches.

It looks at the hype before release on what customers are most hoping for in the new model and uses it to drive communication focus on launch. At and after launch, it’s all about the chatter on what people liked or features they were disappointed didn’t arrive.

This allows Samsung to pivot marketing but also to redirect resources into fast tracking new product development. That said, knowing people wanted a foldable screen phone and producing one of quality are obviously two separate things.

So there it is, a brief outline into the world of data driven creativity. I could geek out all day about the opportunities the right data provides both creatives and clients. Mostly, it comes down to providing access to the right information at the right time. The right data makes the content we produce more relevant, personable, creative and most importantly, effective.

Let’s go. What do you think?

Industry Contributor

James Proctor, Creative Director
One Small Step Collective

James is a Co Founder and the Creative Director of One Small Step Collective. Before this, he has been involved in the Australian and Asian advertising industry for over 20 years. During that time, has helped run big multinationals like Clemenger BBDO, Ogilvy Singapore and George Patterson Y&R, leading the creative product as the Executive Creative Director. Throughout his career, James has delivered campaigns on a diverse client list including well known consumer brands like Coca-Cola, adidas, Virgin Atlantic, Clarks, Multiple Sclerosis, Nestle, Stihl. Also included in this time was strong public experience with clients like The Department of Environment, The RTA, NSW Health, The Republic of Singapore Navy, and the TAC. Along the way, he’s had success at numerous local and international creative award shows from Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD, The Effies and a few Agency of the Year nods. He prides himself on being part of the new breed of creative that actively practices collaborative, data based work processes. 

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