As part of the WARC x Braze “The invisible enabler” report, Jeriad Zoghby, Global Lead for Omni-Channel Commerce at Accenture Song, described how tech-driven creativity is bringing greater dialogue and listening into the relationships between brands and their customers.

Headshot of Jeriad Zoghby

Jeriad Zoghby, Global Lead for Omni-Channel Commerce, Accenture Song

How do you feel technology has been driving creativity in terms of where it's come from, what's changed and where you see its future direction?

The impact that technology is having on creativity is something we've seen already in that it has given everybody more tools to work with. Think about the great work which Rothco did with JFK Unsilenced – bringing a dead President back to life and allowing him to have a voice to give his speech.

There are two other dimensions to this. One is that it's challenging brands to have a consistent voice as channels continue to grow and become more disjointed. That’s changing the process.

I also think that younger generations do not want brands to talk at them. That's traditionally been at the core of the creative process. It used to be the only way that a brand would communicate with you. But now there are so many ways that consumers can have a dialogue with a brand to share their voice and feel empowered. Going forward, we’re going to see work where they’re not just bringing the brand voice into these other channels through technology, but actually starting to create new creative output where dialogue is a core part of it and listening is a core part of the brand framework.

What is your perspective on how tech driven creativity can refresh more well established, typically TV-led, campaigns?

I think there has been some great work, bringing some of the traditional creative work into these digital channels. Technology has helped with that. It's a bit short sighted to try to retrofit something that wasn't built for this more technology-oriented framework for consumers so there's some risk there. Creative teams have done a good job of extending the brand's voice into these channels – not always but more so in terms of the traditional channels. I’d worry that if your creative approach is seen as a retrofit – i.e. if your brand platform hasn’t been built with that creative approach in mind to begin with – it looks short sighted and risky, to be honest.

How do you think the role of data has changed within the creative process? And what role does data play in your own current creative processes?

Data has changed dramatically – more so than the creative process has caught up with. It used to be the case that brands would gather things like market research, go out there, set up panels, listen to people and try to understand all the data while you capture it. Now there are literally millions of people sharing their voices and channels all the time – not just about a brand, but about things specific to a product – what inspires them, things they’d like to see, or any concerns, and so on. And that data should be being fed back into the process to create more of a dialogue with consumers and make them feel empowered that the brand has heard them and is responding to what they’ve said.

It's really interesting because what you find in these channels sometimes is some misinformation. We saw this for one of the brands which we work with and it had gone on for a few years. The brand and the CMO didn't realise that it was happening and that it was significantly impacting sales. It was just a misconception that somebody had put out there which seemed rational, but this concern kept coming back. Because the brand's voice wasn't addressing these concerns, this point of view just kept growing and becoming an even greater challenge. At the same time for that same brand, there were some wonderful things which people were saying about their brand and their product and they didn't realise that either. So it's not just about whether the process can be informed by data that's already out there but also about making people feel empowered and strengthening the way they feel about the brands or the ideas they have about them. If that's not factored into how you collect and use data, it can become a huge risk.

How has COVID-19 shifted our customer experience expectations – particularly with moves towards omnichannel – and how do you think creative deployment of technology is helping with that shift?

So one of the things we saw with COVID-19 is that it drove greater adoption of more channels which created a true omnichannel effect that didn't exist as much pre-COVID. One of the benefits of that, especially for small brands, is that it levelled the playing field. Suddenly you had small brands who couldn't afford something like a TV ad – and even fewer, a Superbowl ad – now had the ability to compete on a level playing field through other channels where they could bring their brand voice to life. That really challenged some of the bigger brands to think in the same way and reevaluate what was important from their brand perspective, their creative work, and how their best work could succeed in these channels. It really did level the playing field in ways that were quite unusual.

Think about the idea that twenty years ago, you would eat a product you bought online from a brand which you'd never heard of – that sounds insane, right? You wouldn’t know how those people were making that product or their standards or anything else. But now that is regular life – we don't think twice about it. And part of the reason is that it's not just about things like ratings and reviews but you go online and you see that, for example, this is a sustainable brand, their brand is very authentic and you get a sense of who they are and what they're trying to achieve with their brand. That drives adoption. And so that has really changed – not just the levelling of the playing field but also the way in which the brand process works within these technology channels.

As marketing organisations transform, many are bringing together brand and performance activity. What marks out an innovator in this field and what can we learn from them?

Some of the best innovators that I've seen in bringing brand and performance together have come out of necessity. There was a great example with Huggies when they relaunched a brand icon around 2019 and into 2020 – right in the middle of COVID. The pandemic changed the process. Suddenly you had to get creatives to work together all remotely. They had to learn new skills to even carry out the creative process in this new pandemic environment. It forced a rethinking of priorities.

Prior to COVID, most people would have said, “My online channels are important but they’re not my core business”. And then all of a sudden, everyone woke up and found that those channels had become core so it didn't just change the creative process, it changed the priorities of the brand platform. Innovation – as is often the case – had been driven by necessity. There was no way around that. Some of the best examples have come from that type of scenario. As we go forward, we're going to see that it's changed the processes of how people work together plus the prioritisation of brand platform work and the role of technology.

In the field of tech-driven creativity, what lessons can be learned from the world of gaming and online communities?

One of the lessons we can learn from gaming and online communities – where creative comes in – is the ability to learn and not be afraid to miss. It’s the de-risking of the creative process. You look at the great work that KFC did in China – a wonderful social gaming exercise – that just took off like fire. But that’s the thing, it’s always a little bit of a risk; you don't know what things are going to work. It's very much an interaction. It's not just about the great thoughts on the brand side, it's how quickly in the timing, in the culture and everything else. And so, being able to take the risk and to minimise, not so much the investment but knowing that you're going to have to take a couple of swings before the one which catches fire. I do think that that's going to change the creative process. It's going to allow us to adopt more experimentation within the creative process and that's a great step forward.