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The Future of Data-Driven Creativity – Reflections on the iMedia Agency Summit

Posted by Peter Crofut on May 8th, 2014 at 7:50 am

I just got back from three days in Austin, TX, attending and presenting at the iMedia Agency Summit. Bringing together media agencies, creative agencies, and advertisers, and focusing on “The future of data-driven creativity,” the event offered a great arena to discuss the challenges and opportunities that agencies are facing in their attempt to embrace new digital technologies.

iMedia tried something new this time around and hosted a Town Hall session Tuesday afternoon, at the end of the conference. Rather than spend the final hour of the day talking at the (now conference-exhausted) audience, they asked Aaron Fetters, Digital Analyst from Kellogg, and I to host a Town Hall-style conversation, in which we posed three key questions to the audience and spent an hour discussing the implications of these questions. I also spent ten minutes at the beginning of the Town Hall, providing some background on how programmatic media buying and data signals can be merged with digital creative to make more relevant and engaging cross-screen campaigns. (You can read my full perspective on this topic on Google’s Think Insights website.)

For this iMedia connection post, I thought I’d discuss some of my own key takeaways from this conversation, as the dialogue is extremely relevant to the work that I do back at Google, trying to help creative agencies embrace digital technologies:

1) Are we in the business of creativity and storytelling, or are we in the business of scaling and automation?
The answer is both. Programmatic is forcing us to think more broadly about what insights from data we can glean to better inform our creative and media strategies. How can we best use technology to bring stories to life for consumers in a way that’s relevant to them? On the one hand we hear too much data in creative will kill storytelling. On the other hand, lots of direct response-focused advertisers say if we move to storytelling it will kill ROI. The correct way to approach this dilemma is to begin by identifying your campaign goals and then planning media and creative accordingly using data to inform your strategy. And you can use the same audience and environmental signals you use for your media buys for your creative. You no longer have to compromise between targeted performance and storytelling; you can achieve both. In the end, this lets you deliver relevant brand messages to the people you care about.

2) Every brand needs a story. If you’re not telling yours, you are an interruption.
As an industry, we need to continue to push ourselves to use data and technology to improve the brand stories we show people. Consumers’ expectations have increased -- they expect relevant, engaging stories that function beautifully across screens. One study found that people interact with an ad unit twice as frequently when that ad is relevant to them (1). If you’re showing people irrelevant messages or showing ads that don’t work across screens, they will write your ad off as an interruption. Today’s marketer needs to artfully use data to shape their brand story.

3) While an algorithm can’t evoke an emotional response, data can suggest what might.
What if, in the not-too-distant future, you could use aggregated data insights from the media plan to improve the creative before it’s even gone live. This "predictive creative" would allow marketers to run diagnostics on ads to see how they'll perform based on aggregated insights about what color, shape, size and features work best in particular environments and for specific audiences. Not only could the data be used to serve relevant creative in real time, but it could also be used as a diagnostic model to predict performance prior to the ad campaign going live. We expect to see continued improvements, such as predictive creative, develop in technology platforms to help marketers make better use of data. Ultimately, by blending the data with the creative, marketers will be able to develop more successful digital campaigns across the web.

(1) Magna Global, Media Economy Report: Better, Smarter, Faster: How Data Is Changing Our Business. Vol. 04. Magna Global USA, Inc., 2014.

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