Cannes Lions changes but can creativity be liberated by data?

By KARL WEAVER, former CEO, Data2Decisions


This year I’m really excited to be involved in the Cannes Advertising Festival as an advisor for the Creative Effectiveness Lions and also on a WARC panel talking about how creative effectiveness is changing.


Interestingly the Cannes organisers have changed the entry rules of the Effectiveness Lions to allow work from the past three years to be entered. They wanted to recognise creativity that’s driven sustained commercial benefit.


This directly addresses a major concern incorrectly levied against quantitative techniques which is that they are only good for assessing short term impacts and not the longer term benefits of advertising. It’s a discussion that has been going on for decades and is a precursor to the ‘math men versus mad men’ debate.


Most people would now agree that there are ways to assess the long term, ranging from quantifying elements of underlying sales, using equity studies, improved ability to charge a higher price and examining brand value derived from the stock market. This is actually quite a good example of how the ‘math men versus mad men debate’ has resolved in the inevitable outcome that actually you need both working together to deliver better commercial results.


And the debate continues around the convergence of data and creativity, but I can definitely see it becoming a more productive conversation as more proof points are produced that demonstrate how these two skills sets can complement each other.


This is our experience at Data2Decisions as well. We have advised hundreds of clients on how best to spend marketing money, and how and why the long term effects significantly change the short term decisions. A creative that is intended to build the brand over a long period of time can have an effect that is much bigger than that of a short term call to action message.


In most cases actually delivering sustained business value through creativity is a much tougher task than measuring it and it’s great to see Cannes recognising gold class cases of storytelling brands for whom creativity has been genuinely transformative. I’m looking forward to seeing how the very best in our industry are harnessing data, not just to prove the effectiveness of creativity, but upfront, to inform and inspire it.


For those who are prepared, we are now entering one of the most exciting eras in advertising. Far from squashing creativity I believe Cannes 2015 will be a bit of turning point where we will see how data and technology are helping to liberate the significant creative forces in our industry. It will have significant impacts on the skills we need in our industry and how they are organised, but in the next few years this data thing is going to release creative from the monitoring of an ROI outcome and put it back at the beginning of the process with renewed credibility.