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Data and Creativity: Let’s Stop Talking at Consumers and Start Actually Listening



Laurelle Simonetti, head of draftLine, and chief creative officer, Neo Segola, weigh in on data-led creativity at Anheuser-Busch InBev’s in-house agency

Data and Creativity: Let’s Stop Talking at Consumers and Start Actually Listening
Once over the initial shock of the world having to isolate in 2020, people from different walks of life experienced a brief moment of having stopped, taking a breath, slowing down. For businesses, this was when the realisation hit that the rulebook was going to have to be thrown out.
As so often happens during an existential crisis, the creative industries went into overdrive – and we continue to learn. What is crucially important is that whereas human creative pursuits have in the past been experienced in person – and enjoyed socially – since Covid hit, the experience of art and creative work has become almost exclusively digital. It’s a preference that may stay with us post-Covid.
In fact, being a gregarious species, our basic human need for social contact is itself being served by digital tools.
What does this mean for marketers? The rulebook may have been thrown out, but the fundamentals remain: we create with our hearts rooted in common human experience and our eyes on the horizon of what’s next. What we need now are new benchmarks.
And for that, we need information. There is no point taking creative shots in the dark. Not only are budgets constrained in the post-Covid era, consumers are far more savvy about what they are willing to spend their social-media currency on. By embracing data as a source of inspiration, we can add value beyond what we could have imagined.


Where we are

Africa is the youngest market in the world and our population is one of the fastest-growing. We’re an early-adopter, mobile-first continent. In its 2021 report, the GSMA stated that registered accounts in Africa “comfortably surpassed the half billion mark”. Sub-Saharan Africa, at the forefront of mobile money for over a decade, accounted for 43% of all new accounts.
African consumers have the ability to interact directly with the brands they love through a device in their pocket. Despite this, the cost of connectivity on the continent comes at a high premium. That means when consumers do choose to interact with brands, it’s a high-value interaction – from both sides. Truly understanding and appreciating this invites us to delve deeper. This is where savvy social listening is important.
In-house agencies have near-instant access to the data consumers choose to share through their brand interactions, meaning they can respond empathically and with speed.
Last year, when the Carling Cup – one of the most highly anticipated events on the South African soccer calendar – had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, draftLine was able to provide fans with an in-home 90-minute match expertly stitched together from their favourite moments of previous games. Superfans who watched it live could interact via USSD to win a cash prize, as well as enjoy the thrill of a totally unpredictable soccer match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates[CR1] . The use of USSD was perfect for the local market because of the high cost of connectivity. And giving superfans an in-home experience that spoke directly to their passion for local soccer was a value-add that wouldn’t have been possible without in-house creative and digital products teams.
In-house creative capabilities mean we can use the insights we glean from those user interactions to meet our consumers where they are. We can deliver great virtual experiences that mean something to our consumers beyond our brands’ products.

What we (don’t) know

It may seem as though the new emphasis on data is in opposition to the traditional industry’s more artistic approaches, but we are still a fan of gut-led creativity. After all, intuition has kept humanity alive for centuries; who are we to try to change that? Data is our road map; the location pin of where the creative solution needs to land. Intuition is still a critical component of the process. Data points are not creative solutions on their own.
Our team is an adherent to the idea of test > learn > optimise. As part of its unique set-up for increasing marketing capability and brand growth, draftLine is on a journey to reimagine how advertising works and to create an ecosystem that works better for brands and for us – the people involved.
As with all creativity, being close to the ground in your market is a massive advantage, but this is only half the equation. Being close to the inner workings of your brands is just as advantageous. Data is the bridge between the two. Brilliant creative execution is the vehicle that gets us across.

About the Authors

Laurelle Simonetti has over 18 years' experience and is highly skilled in digital, strategy, creative and data driven projects. She has a demonstrated history in product development and implementation as well as ensuring operational excellence that brings to life data inspired creative that moves the needle. 
Neo Segola has close to 20 years of experience in the advertising industry. Neo’s passion lies in building iconic brands and making work that speaks to people, not at them. 

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