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Walking the Talk When It Comes to Data-Inspired Creativity

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Juniper Park\TBWA's Liam Steuart talks about why 'data-inspired creativity' often falls short of the mark and several solutions to merge data and creativity together more effectively

Walking the Talk When It Comes to Data-Inspired Creativity

Liam joined Juniper Park\TBWA in 2020 to lead the agency’s precision marketing practice, Scalpel, where he oversees the integration of data-driven campaigns for clients including CIBC, CPP Investments, Properly and Intuit to name a few.    

Liam’s career started almost 20 years ago as a CRM analyst at Nissan Canada. He has since worked for brands in a variety of industries across North America, leading a series of best-in-class customer-centric programs for clients including Volkswagen, Kraft, Samsung, and American Express. His work creating advanced data and analytics models has resulted in ground-breaking levels of personalisation and relevance for his clients and has been recognised at both local and international marketing awards shows.  

Liam’s personal time is devoted to trying to keep pace with his two kids and their guitar, karate, acro, silks, piano and singing lessons. 


Over the course of my career, I’ve been in dozens of meetings where there is talk of ‘data-inspired creativity.’ The truth is, the material often falls short of the mark – not because of the creative, but rather because of what I’d call ‘lazy personalization.’ 

But why is that so? There are a plethora of reasons, but I put it down to not preparing or equipping your teams adequately. While the power of creativity fuels us, data is our compass. It should never be about one or the other, but rather how data can unlock creative opportunities. Data can be used to sharpen your insights and design your programs with your target audience truly at the centre. Creative should be superpowered by slicing your target audiences down to allow for hyper-relevancy.

Since launching Scalpel – our agency’s precision marketing practice – a year ago, we have worked tirelessly to merge data and creativity together. So, what does it take to fuse data into the creative process? First, consider the following questions.

Is data in the room at the start? 

Waiting to bring data into the discussion until the team has unlocked the ‘big idea’ or 30-second anthem spot is too late. Use data to inspire the creative process and drive innovation from the very first brief. Uncover disruptive demand opportunities by profiling your target audience and designing your programs around unique personas. Map out your campaign platforms around tailored journeys to ensure you’re meeting your customer’s ever-increasing expectations for personalised experiences. 

We see data teams as both the glue and the fuel for the creation process – they are the glue that keeps the many different moving components connected and driving to that north star, and they are the fuel because they drive inspiration at every stage of the process. Involving them throughout ensures our teams are constantly pushing for new, progressive ways to meet the evolving needs of our target. And it is never too early to start.

Do the creative team and client understand the platforms they’re executing against? 

Many ideas never fully realise their potential simply due to a lack of understanding of the platforms and tools available. Ideas get killed in early stages as they seem ‘too complex’ or there’s ‘not enough time’ to execute. Even the most seasoned hands-on programmatic professionals find it hard to keep up with the plethora of features being pushed into the market. To top that off, there is no way of knowing beforehand which features and platforms would work best for the brand. 

While proper planning and resources are needed to create truly special data-driven work, the reality is that many platforms are far easier to execute against than most people realise. This is a place where the data team can design an A/B test to understand the efficacy of the combination of creatives, audiences, platforms, and channels.

At Juniper Park\TBWA, we have a saying: ‘do the brave thing.’ Data isn’t there to kill the brave ideas, it’s there to support them. Continuously educate and discuss evolving platforms with your creative teams and clients, and your brilliant yet audacious ideas will thank you for it later. 

Why are you personalising it, and for what purpose?

The easiest question to ask when reviewing data-inspired work is ‘are we personalising content just for the sake of it?’. We are all guilty of it, yet still view any case study which makes claims of the ‘hundreds’ of versions they created with some degree of scepticism. Is the content you are creating driving relevance in some valuable way for your target? Is there a personal benefit you’re highlighting? Are you using data to break through the clutter in some funny or interesting way to grab their attention?   

If your insight is as razor sharp as the content you create, sometimes a single execution can carry the day. More often than not, data will uncover opportunities to take that singular message and enhance its relevance. This can be complex, such as the work we did for a CIBC mortgage campaign designing a series of hyper-relevant personalised video executions based on geo-targeted and affinity dimensions, which drove best-in-class engagement. Or it can be simple, like the dynamic digital creative we put into place for Emergen-C, which took a simple brand message and created distinct versions around five priority target groups, leading to a 42% lift in engagement. When you have started with a deep understanding of your target, a path to relevance almost always uncovers itself. 

Canadian agencies have been thriving in this sphere lately, staying one step ahead of our global neighbours. But there’s always room to improve, and as new platforms continue to sprout up, well-executed data-inspired creative work will be what separates the winners from the losers. 

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Juniper Park\TBWA, Tue, 07 Jun 2022 10:49:50 GMT