How data drives creativity

How data drives creativity

From Mad Men to Math Men – how data became a key factor in innovative creative campaigns

An increasing number of marketers are embracing data, drawing insight from spreadsheets and algorithms, to better target customers with marketing communications at the most profitable time or place. The following marketing campaigns take two very different approaches, but both put data at the centre of their creative process.

Macmillan Cancer Support

The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is one of the UK’s highest profile charity campaigns, raising £29.5 million last year for Macmillan Cancer Support.

That success hasn’t come by chance; it’s due in no small part to the rigorous use of data and insights to maximise return on investment. Heather Pearl, head of national events at Macmillan, explains:

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s a newly created event or something like Coffee Morning which has been around for 27 years; from a financial perspective, the clock is reset in January and every campaign must justify its existence against our fundraising principles. These encompass a range of metrics, including ROI, as well as others around compliance and ethics.”

As a mass-participation event that relies upon supporters to organise the coffee mornings themselves, looking after the needs of this core audience is vital.

“We had 220,000 people sign up for this event last year, and we have to segment this audience to quite a granular level, since their attitudes, needs and behaviours will vary enormously, and these inform how we interact with them,” notes Pearl.

“For example, if someone is new to hosting they’ll naturally require additional support and stewardship; while someone hosting at home will have very different needs to someone hosting a big event at their workplace. We use the supporter insights we gather to make everyone’s experience as personalised as possible.”

Another facet of the Macmillan marketing approach is its agility, particularly once a campaign is under way. Pearl remarks:

“The good news from the rise of digital and data is that we are the most informed we’ve ever been. The Coffee Morning team will work with our creative and media agencies live during the campaign, responding to the data and insights as they come in. This includes making changes to the creative approach and moving budgets around in response to audience shifts.”

The results are clear; Macmillan’s Coffee Morning has more than quadrupled its fundraising clout in the past six to seven years, highlighting the value of an insight-driven approach.

Doctors of the World

It’s not just campaigns like Macmillan’s – which can leverage years of data – that prosper. A recent campaign by human rights organization, Doctors of the World, has shown how data can maximise creativity for brand-new opportunities.

The human rights organisation wanted to run a campaign to help tackle the refugee crisis in Syria. In the USA, meanwhile, a presidential election like no other was under way.

In New York, advertising agency Publicis realised the window of opportunity and, by digging through analytics and insights on Google Trends, was able to pick up on a surge of internet searches in the USA on moving to Canada if Donald Trump was elected.

The four-word phrase ‘I’m moving to Canada’ became the basis of the agency’s campaign for Doctors of the World.

Publicis bid on the search term ‘move to Canada’ and built an website. Camouflaged by, and piggybacking on, the election hype, it formed a first step towards consumers making a Doctors of the World donation.

The campaign cut through the noise at the moment many Americans were thinking about relocating from the USA, and shone a light on Syrians who were forced to flee their own country. It engineered a mood modulation and persuaded Google users to donate money to fund medical supplies for the refugees.

As the campaign ran, the agency responded in real-time to presidential debates and public appearances, reusing and rebooting Donald Trump’s campaign sound bites, such as ‘Move to Canada! Before they build a wall too!’ to drive awareness.

Bitesize social content was created every day in response to news stories and seeded to drive online conversations via the hashtag #immovingtocanada. Canadian celebrities, including pop icons Drake and Justin Bieber, were also used to heighten awareness.

When Donald Trump was elected it triggered such a surge of traffic that it crashed the Canadian immigration site. In turn, traffic to the Doctors of the World campaign also went through the roof.

The campaign’s clickthrough rate (12.96%) far exceeded AdWords norms (1.72%), and drove donations up 190%, with 90% of donations coming from first-time donors. The average donation amount also doubled. The campaign won the 2017 Webby Award for ‘Best Use of Data Driven Media’.

How does data help creative campaigns?

Data can enable marketers to:

  1. Drill down and focus on a theme or topic where your messaging can ‘win’.
  2. Connect with people in moments and places of high emotion and energy – and increase profitability of your message.
  3. Add energy to campaigns, or subtly develop or adjust content in relation to real-world events, allowing emotions to be turned into action.
  4. To build anticipation over several stages of the campaign and hold the audience’s attention over a period of time.
  5. To continue to engage audiences on the ‘long tail’ after a campaign has peaked.

If you want to do more with your data and secure a substantial ROI from your social media strategy, check out our Social Media Strategy course.


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