This was my first time at the Cannes Lions Creativity festival, and because my role is centered in data I was especially excited to see the work in, what else, the Creative Data category. Creative hipsters and data nerds often debate – should the idea be driven by data at the front end, or should data support the idea on the back-end? It’s now clear that the debate is over: it doesn’t matter. Put your Photoshop vs. algorithm battle aside, because the best work in the Creative Data category blended the use of data throughout the creative process and brand expression.
These data-infused brand representations moved more than a business metric; they moved people. The work stood for something greater, and in doing so, they touched each of the five human senses. We see the best work at the intersection of human and machine, so let’s take this a step further and discuss some of the work across those five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.
Destination Pride: For the LGBT community, and the world, the Pride flag represents acceptance. On the 40 anniversary of its creation, nonprofit organization PFLAG Canada transformed the flag into a data visualization to express acceptance across 193 countries. Using five acceptance metrics and social sentiment data, each color on the flag represents a different metric and was shown as full or partial, depending on the country’s score. Destination Pride was then launched as a site to increase awareness of inequalities and as a travel resource for the LGBT community.
image source: Glossy Inc.
Project Re-Voice: The ALS Association wanted to change the way people live with ALS by giving sufferers the full use of their own voices, instead of the standard voice that often comes with today’s computers. To do this, they worked with Pat, one of the Ice Bucket Challenge founders, analyzed over 100 clips of him speaking, and then applied machine learning algorithms to recreate his voice.
image source: BWM Dentsu
Return Journey Through Scent: Cathay Pacific wanted to increase consideration among Australian travelers and demonstrate the airlines’ origin in Hong Kong. To do this, social and geo-location data from 600K Australian tourists who visited Hong Kong were analyzed to develop a perfume – each unique and specific to a person’s travel experience. In all, 102 different perfumes were developed to re-create a journey down memory lane in Hong Kong.
image source: Campaign Brief
Gene Project Case Study: Marmite: you either love it or hate it. So the polarizing brand decided to find out what causes that love/hate relationship. It turns out, it’s in your genes -- by collecting and analyzing DNA samples from 216 Brits, researchers identified 15 Marmite genes that are related to the pleasure or hatred of eating the breakfast spread. Then, the brand delivered DNA test kits across the country to start a conversation -- this is now their most effective campaign to date.
image source: Campaign
Admittedly this is a bit of a stretch, but the most heartwarming and ‘touching’ campaign: Re-picturing homelessness: Getty analyzed users’ download data to find the most popular job-related images. In collaboration with fifty-fifty, a newspaper sold by the homeless, they transformed the homeless through photographs into chefs, corporate execs, and more. Getty then donated the proceeds from image downloads back to homeless causes, specifically housing costs for the homeless, highlighting a population that usually goes unseen.
Through this sensory framework, brands have an opportunity to evaluate and pursue their work in a whole new way. Here’s how you can do it:
Don’t overthink it: the best and simplest ideas are the most powerful.
Intersect your brand values with social causes (where it makes sense): where do you fit in or not?
Evaluate your first party data: what unique data are you capturing that can be useful to the cause?
Bigger than business: Everything does eventually boil down to calculating business impact. But you don’t have to start there. And don’t focus only on financial outcomes as the success metric. Instead, measure how your work is stimulating the senses, and advancing humanity. The business results will follow.