Getting Creative with Data at the Cannes Lions 2018

After many big names threatened to cut their spending or not attend the event, last week’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity was especially interesting to watch. Needless to say, all my social media still buzzed with photos, stories and videos from the South of France. In fact, reports were the festival seemed a bit smaller (seen as a good thing, frankly) but more energized than in recent years.

Since debuting in 2015, a category I’m always particularly keen on following is the Creative Data Lions. These awards celebrate “the interplay of ideas and information – demonstrating how the execution of a campaign was enhanced or driven by the creative use, interpretation, analysis or application of data.” Fast Company reported that entries to Cannes Creative Data Lions rose by 16% last year, “echoing the continued movement toward data- and tech-led creativity.”

As we already know, the volume, velocity and variety of data will continue to grow exponentially. We also know that a blend of data and creative thinking is likely to be what helps businesses grow their revenues at 10 percent a year, twice the average rate of S&P 500 firms, according to a study by McKinsey released at Cannes.

So how are companies using data creatively to increase business? Let’s look at a few winners from this year’s Creative Data Lions competition for some inspiration.

GOLD LION: Know What Your Data Knows
Google, incidentally named creative marketer of the year at Cannes this year, won a Gold Lion for a product demonstration of the Google Cloud. Working with San Francisco-based agency Eleven and the NCAA, Google made live game predictions during the 2018 March Madness Final Four and Championship games. This required uploading decades of historic game data into the cloud and using artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze that data to predict the number of rebounds, total 3-pointers and combined assists that may happen in the second half of each game. At halftime, the resulting predictions were fed into custom-built, Google Cloud-powered software that assembled, rendered and trafficked a television spot to the network in less than 10 minutes. By doing this, Google created the world’s first real-time predictive ads – six spots in total – all in front of an audience of 43 million viewers. The campaign drove a 91% lift in product interest.

SILVER LION: EWR Real-Time Data Taxi Top Campaign
When United Airlines consolidated all flights from JFK Airport to Newark Airport at the end of 2015, it faced an uphill battle convincing many travelers that it wouldn’t take longer traveling from New York City, even though midtown is fairly equidistant from both airports (approximately 15 miles). So how could United use data to prove to people that Newark could be more convenient than JFK even though it’s in New Jersey? Working with agency mcgarrybowen, this Silver Lion winner outfitted 125 digital taxi tops with GPS trackers comparing current travel times between JFK and EWR. The software used more than 45,000 data points including distance, traffic patterns, accidents and road work, analyzed and optimized in real time, to bring awareness to the “cost” of going to JFK vs. EWR, showing that, especially from downtown Manhattan, the trip can be up to an hour faster. It was the first time live traffic data had been used in ads constantly moving around the city, and United’s brand favorability jumped from 39% to 55% vs. the same period the previous year.

BRONZE LION: Operation Santa
Every holiday season the USPS gets millions of letters from children addressed to Santa. In 2017, it worked with MRM/McCann New York to create a platform that matched a child’s letter to volunteers who could fulfill their wish as part of Operation Santa. After scanning and analyzing more than 14,000 letters for key data points, this Bronze Lion winner posted more than 4,000 vetted and validated letters, each with sensitive information redacted and encrypted with anonymous letter IDs. The “crowdsourced” Santas then arrived at the post office with the requested gifts the post office could then deliver. This pilot program resulted in an incremental 4,000 packages delivered in New York through the USPS and is expanding to major cities nationwide this Christmas.

Whether these brands and the others represented in this category used their own data, data provided by a third party or a combination of the two, what’s clear is that the true value of data is often unknown until it’s used in new and inventive ways. Only by considering and experimenting with new potential uses of data, always with ethical considerations, can we uncover opportunities to drive business and also add value to consumers’ lives in material ways. So, the next time you face a business problem it may be worth asking, what role can data play in solving it?

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