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Data as inspiration, not just validation

Data is having a bad time of it lately. It has got itself embroiled in a whole heap of murky stories. Big data stands accused of being manipulated for nefarious practices during elections and referendums. Programmatic, everyone’s favourite media villain, pits data directly against creativity. Data even resides in the blackened heart of the ad fraud issues that plague the industry.

There has never been more data available to marketers, but rather than be seen as a source of inspiration and insight, it is being painted as the very nadir of creativity. It almost makes one wistfully look back at when data was merely tainted with being used to create pointless faux-effectiveness nonsense for social media marketing and PR awards.

Data is in need of redemption. It needs to be held up once again as the very source of creativity. Especially now, more than ever, when there is such a wealth of data freely available to us.

From search patterns, to social conversations, to user journey tracking to the multiple points of information that every person leaves in their wake each day. In the right hands, this data can lead to the most amazing and powerful creative applications. We need to champion those who can turn this ever-growing mine of data into real, actionable insight. The ones who can speak the language of queries as well as creativity.

All too often, the data “insight” that marketers act upon is reductive. Chasing people around he web with an offer on a pair of pants that you happened to browse three weeks prior. Or overfamiliar advertising that in trying to pretend that it understands you though a few data points, proves that it doesn’t understand you at all. This is not data creativity.

The skill lies in contextualising, connecting and interpreting data sources in ways that will surface the relationships, trends and discrepancies that can spark creativity. This requires more than left brain rational interpretation, it needs right brain creative exploration to make it powerful.

As we go forward, data expertise should not reside in its own department, data should sit alongside the creatives. We should be welcoming a new breed of creative data interpreters who can make data be seen as a force for good once again.

Freesat – Unbelievably Good

Freesat have done an amazing job in directly translating customer data into their most effective and creative campaign. Simply by understanding the barriers to switching, and observing the unbelievable behaviours of those who have switched, Freesat have encouraged more Sky customers than ever to switch to them.

Freesat is a genuinely good product and brand. Offering 200+ channels, the ability to pause, rewind and record, access to on-demand apps like Netflix and iPlayer, delivered with the best customer service in the industry. All for no monthly fee.

It is remarkable that more people don’t have Freesat. Especially when you consider that Freesat’s prime recruitment audience are Sky customers, and they tend to be a rather unsatisfied bunch.

Sky customers are not shy at sharing their angst online. So there is a hugely rich repository of data on these “wobblers”. After analysing over 45,000 conversations for behavioural clues about the relationships customers had with Sky, it became apparent that these customers were displaying many of the traits of smokers.

They were addicted to Sky. They might well recognise the unhealthy relationship they were in, but struggled to break free. After all, the content they get from Sky is great – that’s hard to give up. So it is easy to make the same excuses for not giving up just yet.

Simply pointing out to the rational proof that Freesat was everything they had, but free, was not enough to sway them. Rational arguments rarely change addicted behaviours. Counter-intuitively, the “Free” part, worked against Freesat. In wobbler’s minds “free” must equal “worse”.  It is far harder to break your addiction when it feels that all there is on the other side is a downgrade.

So Freesat looked to those who had made the switch. The conversations we found were effusive with hyperbolic praise and over-excitement, and more than a little regret for not having done so earlier. They were talking like reformed smokers.

“This is the best day of my life”. The BEST? Really? What about your marriage? The birth of your child? This was a genuine quote from a switcher. And there were more. “This might have saved our marriage”, “I’ve saved so much I’ve bought a super car”, “I prefer Freesat over my children”.

The quotes are unbelievable, but they are true. And they are the direct inspiration of the Unbelievably Good creative that Freesat now runs in every channel. Data packaged like this for the creatives was boundlessly inspirational, and the resulting work was hugely impactful.

Simply by highlighting how good people feel in having made the switch, it proved to be the biggest encouragement to others to break their addiction and make the switch too.

The hyperbolic creative use of real data has driven a three-year high in awareness for Freesat. And they are seeing even more Sky Wobblers wobbling to Freesat.

Data that is freely available online, when creatively interpreted, has led to real results. Data has been an inspiration, as well as a validation for Freesat.

Agency: Mr President, London

“This is the best day of my life”. The BEST? Really? What about your marriage? The birth of your child?
The hyperbolic creative use of real data has driven a three-year high in awareness for Freesat.
Freesat - Unbelievably Good, by Mr President
Freesat - Unbelievably Good, by Mr President

Spotify – User data as creative

Spotify have enviable volumes of listener data, which can be interpreted in far more compelling ways than simple Top 10 Charts. For their 2016 end of year campaign, they used their data to tell amazingly emotive stories, each hyper-localised to the places the ads featured. Little creative snippets of how their platform was used, that shine a beautiful human light onto their data. This is data being interpreted and applied in a truly engaging form.

Spotify creative data

BetVictor – Goals not Bets

The hugely successful Million Pound Goal Promotion was a born from a brilliantly creative use of data. Bookies spend huge amounts of money jostling for position on Google around betting terms. The acquisition cost can be eye-watering around major tournaments like the Euros. So BetVictor looked at where bettors were searching outside of bets. Goal search terms, despite being of similar scale to bets searches, were uncontested. So their acquisition spend was directed at Goals, not bets.

Agency: The Million Pound Goal, Mr President

BetVictor – Goals not Bets

Maille – Discovery Spoons

Data capture in store is usually a laborious process of writing emails in return for incentives. But data can be captured creatively too. Maille used their boutiques to allow data capture as a seamless part of the in-store experience. Building NFC-enabled discovery spoons that allowed customers to favourite mustards during tasting. Allowing Maille to follow-up with meaningful recipe and offer communications after they left the store.

Agency: Maille Discovery Spoons, Mr President

Maille – Discovery Spoons

About the author

Nick Emmel, Mr. President, Founder and Strategy Partner

Nick Emmel is Founder and Strategy Partner of Mr. President, IAB's Agency of the Year. Having graduated from Oxford University, Nick went on to be one of the pioneers of digital marketing strategy at Campaign's Digital Agency of the Decade, Dare. In 2012 he went on to found the independent creative agency, Mr. President. Working to transform Global's radio brands into entertainment brands for a digital age, developing new marketing models for Unilever, and helping re-invent The Body Shop.

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