"On the other side of our world lies another world, called data,” wrote Dentsu executive creative director Yasuharu Sasaki in his president’s message for this year’s Cannes Lions Creative Data jury. “Every single movement of people, things, and information is collected in this other world. But this world of data is not a crystal ball. Staring at it won’t tell you a thing. Feeding AI with more data is pointless without a plan.” Intrigued by his human imagination-fuelled approach to his role as jury president, LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with him for some serious data chat.
LBB> What were your initial thoughts when you heard about and were invited to preside over the Creative Data jury?
Yasuharu> About five years ago, when I heard that this category would appear, I wondered if I would see any good examples because I thought that creatives and data were fundamentally incompatible. However, I now feel as if Creative Data will become the most interesting category at Cannes, as we are now seeing more data and, recently, more tools. I am very pleased and honoured to be able to act as jury president.
LBB> Last year much of the conversation revolved around brands' use of data following GDPR and scandals like Cambridge Analytica - how do you see that space now and its relationship with creativity?
Yasuharu> Before we even think about the legal aspect, I think we need to eliminate distrust between brands and people. What I mean is, everybody thinks that their personal data is being arbitrarily used by brands to maximize profit. I think that creating the kind of creativity that causes people to think that good things will happen when they hand over their data will produce more sound data distribution.
LBB> Data comes into play in practically all advertising now. What do you think will be the hardest part of judging the entries?
Yasuharu> Currently, in the field of advertising, one often hears talk about raising the short-term efficiency of data. How far should the conversion rate should be raised, for example. However, if that is the only priority, users will rapidly disappear. I think that we need to conduct judgement from a user point of view and discover and recognise usages of data that create long-term relationships between brands and people.
LBB> In your president’s message you used the interesting phrase, "Feeding AI with more data is pointless without a plan." – can you expand on what you mean by that?
Yasuharu> When it comes to digital solutions, talk often tends to be about technology such as AI. However, this does not mean that simply using AI or possessing a lot of data are enough to resolve issues. You will not find any magnificent answers by statistically processing numerical figures and running up enormous electrical expenses. Instead, you will end up with advertising efficiency that has only improved slightly. To make large discoveries from examining data, one must have the powers of foresight possessed by both strategists and creators. We must not forget to improve our human capacities for judgement and invention.
LBB> Last year’s Grand Prix went to 'JFK Unsilenced' by Rothco – is there anything in that project that you'll be looking for in the work this year?
Yasuharu> The JFK example was splendid in that it reconstructed history from data by creating a speech that could not have existed. Perhaps it is similar to the Ayrton Senna example that Dentsu created a long time ago. This year, I once again want to focus on a common point of these projects: their abilities to sway and influence people’s emotions using data.
LBB> What are you hoping to see from the entries this year? How has the pre-judging been going so far?
Yasuharu> The JFK example used past data, but, this year, I want to look for the kind of data that will create a new future, if possible. I want to search for the type of creativity that will produce a good future by spinning together the new data that is created each and every day. Based on the pre-judging we have done so far, I feel as if we will find a few examples like this.
LBB> What’s your favourite creative use of data of all time?
Yasuharu> I have seen a variety of terrific examples but I do not feel as if I have encountered any that made me say, “now this is creative data!” Rather, I feel as though there are more interesting creative uses of data out there. I hope I find that “best example of collaboration between creativity and data” this year.
LBB> Is there one piece of work that you can see being the big winner this year? If so, what is it and why?
Yasuharu> Nike Dream Crazy is surely a strong contender. Other award-winning data are evidence of this. However, I am looking forward to encountering never-before-seen, obscure and small, but very brilliant and new, ideas that have not yet appeared as data.
LBB> What do you think are going to be the biggest talking points of Cannes this year?
Yasuharu> I think diversity and inclusion will again be a large theme, but I personally think it is about time to talk about the monetary value of creativity. It is hard to form a visual picture of it, but I think that creativity, which can produce long-term brand value and business in addition to ad expression, should be more highly evaluated monetarily. I want to start discussions regarding this idea soon.
LBB> Are there any less established markets that you can see performing particularly well? What are they and why?
Yasuharu> I do not have any specific examples, but I am personally paying attention to China. Creativity, such as in the field of design, is rapidly evolving there, and China has some of the newest technology, as well as the capacity to produce it, as well as a tremendously large market and a generation of young people. The examples from China are now very sophisticated. As a matter of fact, I am currently thinking about studying Chinese.
LBB> Think back to your first year in Cannes - what’s one thing you’d tell yourself?
Yasuharu> My first year at Cannes was in 1999, exactly 20 years ago. That was the time I switched from copywriting to digital creativity, and I was very nervous about what the future held. If I could go back and tell myself something, I would say: “The technology and methods will change in a variety of ways, but, ultimately, creativity that makes people laugh or cry will continue to be more important than anything else, so do your best.”
LBB> How will you be spending the rest of your time in Cannes? Are there any events or talks you’re eager to attend?
Yasuharu> Cannes evolves with each year, and, apparently, a variety of events will happen this year as well. All the same, when the judging is over, I would like to step away from the data and digital fields for a while and do something for leisure, such as sea fishing.