The role of data in driving creativity


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As the Cannes International Festival of Creativity (aka the Cannes Lions) concludes for another year, I thought I would comment on my plea for more marketers to start seeing, appreciating and championing the role of DATA in being a critical enabler of driving marketing creativity and ultimately effectiveness.

Reading and listening to much of the feedback and reviews from this year’s Cannes festival (unfortunately can’t be there myself this year!), there seemed to be a general consensus that ‘digital’ has now very much moved from the ‘hot topic’ to being ‘normalised’ and simply seen as business as usual in any campaign worth its salt – about time and thank goodness (albeit the ‘Film’ category still remains the most entered).

Attention this year seemed to be focused more on the application of ‘Marketing in a Digital World’ with many talking about themes such as the need to drive customer engagement, enable real-time conversation, develop more enduring big ideas that last (vs. gimmicky short-term promotional ideas) and develop shareable, high-impact branded content.

Given this context and these objectives, it seems obvious to me that being more relevant, precise, personalised, agile and real-time means brands have no choice but to get to grips with data and how it empowers and enables creative solutions.

Indeed, data, or ‘big data’, is big news today and top of the c-suite agenda. There seems to be a real awakening to the burgeoning role data can and should play within Marketing, from customer PII (personally identifiable information) to website analytics to social ‘unstructured’ data. It’s also clear this presents some major challenges. The recent IBM CMO Study (Oct 2011) rated ‘data explosion’ as ‘the number 1 matter CMO’s felt most unprepared for’ (at 71%), ahead of social media (at 68%). And recent eMarketer research (May 2012) found that 91% of US Marketers and Agencies agreeing that data access/use is ‘very important to their ad spending plans’ in 2012.

So I was therefore surprised – and somewhat disappointed – not to see more focus on the strategic use of data within the award entries and winners.

Whether it was using data and data-driven insights to acquire and win more of the right customers or using data to drive segmentation and targeting to better keep and develop customers, there were a lack of examples that brought to life the concept of precision marketing. The focus still seemed to be largely on creativity in the traditional sense of mass entertainment. This indeed remains critical but surely in this world of engagement, conversation and relevance – and a time of increased pressures on budgets to perform – more entries should have shown how data enabled them to open up fresh insights and then laser-target their messages to drive incremental efficiencies and therefore effectiveness.

It’s worth quickly clarifying what we mean when we say ‘data’ and its role in the creative process. I don’t mean ‘data’ in its most raw form. Rarely does data on its own drive the creative process or brief. I often talk with clients about the ‘DIKW’ model (the pyramid starting with Data and moving up to Information, Knowledge and Wisdom at the top) – that is that raw data must be transformed into useful information, this information put into context equates to knowledge and this needs to be applied to deliver wisdom or wise decision making. Interactive agency Razorfish agree, saying “when we talk about true insights that inspire the creative process, we are talking about wisdom”. So what is obvious is the need to use data at both ends of the marketing process. At the start, using data to derive solid actionable insights and at the delivery end using data to develop an engaging big idea that is translated into a program that connects with the right consumer, with the most relevant message, via the right channel and at the right time.

And herein lies one of the problems with ‘big’ data. In a recent Cap Gemini study, 85% of respondents agreed that the issue with ‘big data’ is not actually the growing volume of data but rather being able to analyse and act on data in real-time. And herein lies the reason I think we are not seeing more entries apply data as a key enabler to their effectiveness award entries.

Perhaps it is not that surprising then that no Integrated Grand Prix was awarded at Cannes this year….perhaps if an entry had really shown how the use of data (and wisdom) had enabled multi-channel, relevant connections around a stunning ‘big idea’, the judges may have seen differently.

So, Cannes organisers, how about a new Lions category around ‘Best Use of Consumer Data’ ?

Let us know your thoughts or how you are applying data to drive your creative outputs.

Next time I’ll be talking about the nature of what defines success at Cannes and the focus on key metrics of effectiveness.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Nick Broomfield
Nick Broomfield is a Director & Partner at The Customer Framework. He joined TCF in 2010 having spent 8 years at Diageo where he headed the Global Digital Marketing Team. Nick was responsible for successfully integrating interactive channels to become an indispensible element of the overall brand plans and is credited with introducing and embedding a focus on consumer engagement. He is passionate about helping brands engage and build profitable relationships with consumers across multiple channels. Nick currently sits on the IDM Digital Advisory Council.


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