Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 | 8 min read
A Cannes Lions Grand Prix may be the pinnacle of creative awards, and this year there’s a huge opportunity for a data-led campaign to win one.
Cannes added the Creative Data category last year, but no overall Grand Prix prize was awarded. With an eye on the 2016 Cannes Lions festival later this month, I want to look back at the 2015 awards and examine what it will take to win this year’s Grand Prix.
I also want to look at the tech behind the 2015 submissions and explore how it can be used as a springboard for award-winning campaigns.
At the 2015 awards, there were six gold winners, but five of these were for noncommercial projects (which aren’t eligible to win the Grand Prix). This left the judges with only one possible contender for the Grand Prix: The EA Sports Madden “Giferator.”
The campaign is based on a content generator that uses real-time NFL game events to build animated GIF ads and sharable social content. It fits the requirements of the Use of Real-Time Data subcategory: “Demonstrate how the innovative application of data, created or used in real-time, provided dynamic content and enabled an ongoing consumer relationship.”
It’s not immediately obvious what else Madden could have done to secure the Grand Prix, so I decided to compare it with other Grand Prix winners in the main awards festival. The Cyber (digital) category seemed like the logical point of comparison, and the Grand Prix winner within this category provides us with a good idea of what the judges are looking for.
The Madden Giferator is technically strong and engaged fans in a big way, but it wasn’t as influential as the “I Will What I Want” campaign. The Under Armour message was more powerful in that it spurred an emotional conversation and struck a chord with a growing female audience. And, coincidentally, it had real-time listening data at its core.
Conversational social data can both inspire a strategy and drive the resulting real-time campaign. This suggests that even in the Creative Data category, clever use of data probably isn’t enough to win a Cannes Lions Grand Prix. It’s a requisite for an entry in the category to have a data element, but the creative idea is more important than how the data was actually used.
Both campaigns were likely built on social media management technology. While creating either of these two projects from scratch is not impossible, it’s quicker, less risky, and more economical to build them using an existing platform. If an organization has the proper tech in place, projects like this become much easier to get off the ground. The base is already there: a tool that takes data from multiple sources, and automatically make decisions and produces outputs based on a set of rules.
In the case of the Giferator, the input is an NFL game data stream, such as those provided by Opta. This data stream is fed into the platform, and rules can be set up to trigger the creative; for example, if a touchdown is scored by player X against team Y, then the custom built creative is served to a predefined audience target. The nonstandard factor is the custom creative built from a set of stock game footage, backgrounds, and copy lines. Since animated GIFs can be built on the fly using PHP or HTML5 code, however, they are a relatively straightforward feature.
For “I Will What I Want,” the data input – listening for negative sentiment – is a standard function for social media management platforms. Rules could be set up to harvest, filter for bad language, and select the most negative comments, but it’s likely that a human hand would be required to make the final selections. A stream of the best comments could be sent to a designated person’s mobile device, and the designee would then simply approve the comments that they want to go live.
The platform could then output a data stream in whatever format was required to supply the projection setup with the approved negative comments.
In both campaigns the software is the central hub, able to accept any data source, process the data based on a predefined set of rules, and then either output a fresh data stream or serve creative. With the right software hub in place, ideas that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to build become more straightforward and doable.
We can’t be sure of what the judges will look for this year, but this is what we’d like to see:
The Grand Prix should go to a brand that hasn’t simply built a one-off campaign based on some static data, but one that has made data the heart of its business. This means full-time listening, aggregation of sales and social data, segmentation of audiences, and a tech setup that feeds the insights into every part of the business – from product development, to customer care, to strategy and advertising. This is what allows brands to react quickly to public sentiment and achieve excellence.
The data has to directly inform the strategy. None of the gold winners from 2015 do this fully, and this should be the essence of the Creative Data Lions. Strategies should not be based on hunches or ideas of what people might like – they should come straight from insights revealed by the data: either by listening to online conversations or by aggregating data sources and crunching the numbers. I’d like to see focus on a behavior or need that the brand was entirely unaware of (similar to how Under Armor used social conversation data to know that a female model would provoke a certain reaction).
Many data-inspired projects fall short creatively because the data wizardry may seem like enough to get the job done. There can be clever data work that reveals a great insight and a tech solution that pulls it together and spits out personalized ads that get great results, but that isn’t enough to win a Grand Prix. You need a setup that encourages the creative people to work with the data people and create a groundbreaking campaign idea together. A tech approach that combines data teams, strategists, and creatives provides the platform to accomplish this.
Even if you’ve got a killer idea, it isn’t going to win unless it has shifted the needle; commercial campaigns must be judged based on the numbers. After all, results are what businesses are after, not awards.
To win a Creative Data Grand Prix, there needs to be an innovative creative idea that is inspired by the data – the right tech solution just makes it easier. “I Will What I Want” should be used as an example to be matched and bettered, not by imitating it, but by finding the insight that helps your brand break new ground.
These awards will become extremely competitive over the next few years, so if data is currently at the heart of your business and you have a strong creative campaign that was commercially successful, consider throwing your hat into the ring this coming year.