in Data & Insights

Embracing the Power of Data to Drive Creativity at Cannes

By Paul Curtis

2016 marks a significant year for Cannes Lions, because if the festival is to reflect real world trends in marketing and media, it must acknowledge that nearly half of ad spend is moving to digital media and according to eMarketer, the UK has already reached this tipping point.

The festival quite rightly should focus on creativity but its definition of great work has to expand from ‘traditional’ advertising and embrace the ingenuity and innovation that is powered by data. Cannes Lions has tried to bring data within its ‘big tent’ with the Lions Innovation strand, but data and digital is now moving closer to becoming front and centre in the Palais and not relegated to a fringe event.

Creativity in digital is often seen more as a PR stunt than a genuine effort to engage consumers online. The attention has been on emerging tech such as virtual reality, augmented reality and holograms – work that is only witnessed by a small number of consumers, yet receives a disproportionate amount of press coverage.

Today, we’re seeing a gold rush of advertisers hungry for real-time insights into consumer behaviour and online habits, to better inform their ad messages. Taking this one step further, combining data-driven insights with the creative flair will not only better engage masses of consumers at a one-to-one level, but drive positive brand awareness and association.

The creatives are in the driving seat when it comes to really bringing this to life. There’s no secret sauce to achieving better, rich and relevant consumer engagement – by developing stronger ties with the science we can inform the art. This is achieved by developing a data feedback loop through closer partnerships between the creative experts, media agencies and the real-time digital marketing experts, responsible for identifying the right consumer and delivering the brand and creative message. 

This is where the sweet spot of bringing traditional creativity and digital advertising together sits. Without more creative input, the majority of digital media is driven solely by commodity pricing and the hunt for efficiencies. This is ruining the potential for introducing compelling, relevant creative.

The traditional creative mindset feels the deployment of algorithms in marketing is sucking out spontaneity and serendipity from consumer engagement. I do tend to agree. Our media consumption should not be entirely curated by algorithms. But when it comes to figuring out whom to serve which ad to, it’s essential for advertisers to leverage the science for execution.

Algorithms are also capable of identifying psychographics, understanding consumer interests and matching them against the interests of likeminded people to find new things that they’ll have a high chance of liking and responding to, at scale. Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist is a great example, as it is undoubtedly introducing users to music they never would have come across in a world without sophisticated algorithms. Importantly though, they exist in a world of mixed media, where people still discover music through TV, radio, festivals and word of mouth.

The same can be the case with advertising. We commissioned independent European research to understand how consumers feel towards mobile advertising and around 40% of consumers wished mobile ads were more creative, with this rising to more than 50% for 16-34 year olds, with roughly the same proportion of people asking for greater relevancy.

We’re only scratching the surface of the potential of digital advertising. As Mary Meeker highlighted in her annual Internet trends report recently, the impact of the internet is extraordinary and broad, but in many ways it’s just the beginning. It’s an incredibly exciting time in digital, as we have the tools to avoid wasteful advertising and reach a mass audience at scale.

We live in a programmable world, where the internet is highly personalised, surely it’s time advertising was also? Advertisers have access to formats that enable them to offer compelling brand experiences with measurable results. As everyday displays become connected, it opens the doors for all media to be programmable. Creative will soon become programmable and when this happens we will move closer to unlocking the true value of the digital era.

This article was first published on The Drum here.