Nike: Outdo You campaign
Nike: Outdo You campaign
A view from Ben Walmsley, Sizmek

3 examples of how data can be used creatively

Does data impinge on creativity? Not in these three examples from Cannes Lions Innovation.

Creativity captures audience attention, but to retain digital eyeballs advertising also needs to be contextually relevant and targeted to the consumer. Cue data.

There is a lot of hype around the relationship between data and creativity and this formed a major narrative at this year’s Cannes Lions Innovation festival.

While some marketers still believe data restricts creativity, the majority are recognising the power of data and creativity working together.

Professor Brian Cox stepped into the debate arguing that within the right framework data can always improve the creative process and campaign success. The inaugural Lions Innovation festival even had an award dedicated to Creative Data, which received more than 600 entries.

So, how are brands devising strategies to balance both data and creativity in their ad campaigns and how does the UK stack up against the rest of the world?

Using data to build emotional connection

Triggering an emotional reaction, whether it is joy, sadness, humour or sympathy, should be the goal of any creative, and data can be used effectively to build that emotive connection. At Cannes Lions Innovation, speakers referred to data as "the linchpin to creating more emotional content".

Take the Nivea Protection advert as an example. A print ad in a magazine supplied a tearout bracelet with a built-in locator that parents can use to keep track of where their children are on the beach.

Using advanced mobile and geo-tracking technology, the bracelet enables parents to set a maximum distance their child can go, and sends a smartphone alert if this distance is exceeded.

Nivea used a highly creative approach to engage parent’s emotions – fear, protectiveness and desire for a worry-free holiday – to establish themselves as a brand that keeps children safe.

Using real-time data for instant response

The ability to detect and instantly respond to real-time data signals allows marketers to reach their audience with creative messaging at precisely the right moment.

The 'Melanoma Likes Me' campaign for Melanoma Patients Australia, leverages real-time social data to identify when users are out in the sun, raise awareness of the risks of sun exposure and educate the audience on how to identify melanoma.

Using a real-time response tool that utilises API endpoints to identify popular hashtags related to having fun in the sun – such as #beachside, #sunkissed and #tanlines – the campaign instantly responds with social messages from @_melanoma.

This creative approach enables Melanoma Patients Australia to reach its target audience via their channel of choice at the very moment they are at most risk from sun damage, and opens up an immediate channel of engagement.

Using data to tell a story

Storytelling is a valuable method of engaging consumers with creative content – drawing them into the connected brand narrative. In its "Your Year with Nike+" campaign, Nike took a year’s worth of data for 100,000 Nike+ members and created personalised one-minute animated films that were delivered to individual mobile devices.

These films combined location, weather and training data – including running distances, best race times, and least active days – to create a unique story for each member, and then issued a personal challenge and training plan to motivate members for the year ahead.

There were numerous other examples of data driving creativity at the Cannes Lions Innovation Festival. Category winners came from around the world – France, USA, Japan, Australia.

However, the UK only won one award in the Cannes Lions Innovation Gold category – with What3Words' Addressing the World – while the US won three and Australia won two.

The UK also failed to secure any awards in the Cannes Creative Data Gold category, demonstrating that the UK still has some way to go in combining data with creative to drive successful, award winning advertising campaigns, and to keep up with the rest of the western world.

The key message from Cannes Lions was greater collaboration is needed between creatives and data analysts.

While this is already beginning to happen with the examples above, the unison of data and creativity needs to become the rule rather than the exception.

Ben Walmsley is regional VP for northern Europe at Sizmek