This post is by Karl Weaver, CEO of Data2Decisions.
Change is a good thing. It forces us to think differently and re-establish the norms we take for granted. For the creative industry, data and technology has been an explosive catalyst for change, forcing the uncomfortable debate about whether data and creativity can work together to produce not only more effective, but more emotionally engaging creative work. There were early distractions as the data ‘geeks’ and creatives were pitted against each other, but thankfully the debate about whether data helps or hinders creativity is nearing completion. The two worlds have well and truly collided and we are finally ‘doing’ the collaboration we’ve been talking about for so long. The results so far have been very promising.
Take artificial intelligence for example, one of the most exciting, if not frightening collisions of data, creativity and technology we’ve seen yet. The technology has advanced in leaps and bounds throughout the past decade, with investors pouring millions into robotics companies now bringing interactive and emotionally intelligent robots to consumers on masse. Earlier this year, Robot Pepper, a humanoid robot with the emotional capacity to understand and communicate with humans went on sale in Japan. Creators Aldebaran Robotics sold out 1,000 units priced at £1,107 each in less than a minute. The demand is real and the possibilities endless.
Humanoid robotics aside, cutting-edge advertising applications are already emerging. The world’s first artificially >intelligent digital poster campaign was recently launched in London by M&C Saatchi, Posterscope and Clear Channel, with data analytics by Data2Decisions. The poster is fuelled by a genetic algorithm which allows the poster to change into a more effective ad based on people’s emotional reaction to it. By installing a camera within the posters, engagement of passers-by is captured based on whether they look happy, sad or neutral and the poster responds accordingly to deliver the best combination of imagery, copy and font.
This is next generation out of home advertising but there are also some beautifully simple, yet hugely engaging executions delivered via personal digital screens. What the creators of these examples all have in common is access to individual level data, which is still a big challenge for most brands.
One of my favourites is the ‘Your Year with Nike+’ project. At the end of last year, more than 100,000 Nike+ members across the Nike+ Running, Nike+ Training Club and NikeFuel apps received a personalized one-minute film designed by French illustrator-director McBess with content inspired by their own activity and accomplishments from 2014. Using individual level data collected through Nike technology, it created something beautiful, personal and useful for its customers. It taps into the ‘project me’ social trend where people want curated and personalised content in their pursuit of perfection (or at least improvement), whether that’s in fitness, fashion, food or travel. Generic advice and content simply doesn’t cut it anymore and frankly, given the technical and creative capabilities we have, nor should it.
One of the simplest examples is from Google, which delivers personalised birthday Google doodles for people signed up to Google+. If no one remembers your birthday at least Google will.
Media is now a sensor for brands and data is the signal that consumers send back, but they do this using technology now, not primary research and in this way technology is founding a connection between data and creativity. As products become commoditised, consumers need to be encouraged to engage with brands. Brands need to adapt and create an emotional connection with its audience in order to be recognised.
Much of the talk about combining data, creativity and technology ends up in a conversation about bringing together the processes. The trouble is, there is no such thing as a ‘data process’. It doesn’t exist. Instead, we need to find more opportunities to bring data into the existing creative process. You don’t know what you don’t know and so the role of data in the creative process is to fill that gap, allow you to think differently with more information at hand - for data to liberate creativity.
Of course, if it were that easy we’d all be nailing it but the reality is that bringing the left and right brains together is difficult. In order for marketers to truly take advantage of the combined power of data, creativity and technology, we need to keep pushing for culture change and to be more open to each other and our respective ways of working. Bill Gates once said: “If your culture doesn’t like geeks, you are in real trouble.” I not only agree but believe the same applies in reverse.
Slowly but surely, seismic collisions between data, technology and creativity are occurring. Smart advertisers have not only braced themselves for it, they have invited it in and made it a cup of tea. And who knows, the next stop could be outer space.