Megan Thompson

2023 predictions

Balancing data and soul

AMV BBDO's head of data thinks that conversations around the topic need to be reframed around experiences rather than schemes

By Megan Thompson

Every year I read article after article which tells me that the trends to watch out for are machine learning, AI, predictive analytics, big data, data lakes, etc.

I even read one recently which proclaimed it’s the year of the data schema.

As a “data person” through and through (I even chair the BBDO EMEA Data Council), my team has certainly heard me advocate for a good taxonomy in the past. But these articles don’t go far by way of disseminating knowledge and democratising data.

The first thing that comes to mind when I read them, is that 99 per cent of the audience will feel that they are lagging behind, and don’t know how to put plans in place to reach the potential they preach.

But if 99 per cent of us think so, who are we worried we are falling behind?

So, here are the creative data trends that I see on the rise and am a big fan of.

And they don’t rely on innovation, investment, or AI.

1). Breadth

With the loss of cookies (boohoo, you shouldn’t care anyway), it’s a prime tipping point for data and creative brains to come together to create magic.

I hear so many great ideas to use a much wider variety of data sources and data points to identify real consumer needs and behaviours and consider how to target against them or create wonderful compelling experiences around them.

Great innovation so often comes from restrictions and challenges, and we are now starting to play with the whole data toolkit rather than rely on poor quality cookie information to do the job for us.

DDB Mexico utilised this kind of thinking for their Cannes Lion Grand Prix winning Data Tienda for WeCapital. The data that they needed didn’t exist, so they created it.

2). Understanding

Data strategists have long proclaimed that the questions you ask of the data are as important as the answers you find, and it seems that this trend is finally taking hold.

As the breadth of data sources and application increases, there are a wider range of people involved, and we challenge ourselves and each other with more questions. Why does the data show that? Can we prove or disprove it with a different data set? What does this mean the consumer is thinking of feeling or needing?

At AMV, we call this Data with Soul. And there’s a balance to get it right. We shouldn’t paralyse ourselves with questions but pushing ourselves to interpret the data opens new relationships and opportunities.

You can see the results of our team working on Mars Petcare asking questions such as “but why does that happen” and “what do they do next”? in work like Sheba 4AM Stories, winner of multiple YouTube awards.

3). Excitement

I recently presented a data strategy and, I say it modestly, the team were so excited to put it all into practice!

There were so many ideas and questions about what the data had told us, what the route forward is, and what that might mean in application for the consumer experience.

Data is no longer restricted to conversation about schemas (valid as those are), it’s about potential application and experiences.

That excitement drives the investment, but more importantly, the use of the platforms, methodologies, and frameworks to truly deliver effective creative work.

By worrying less about the trends for the enablers of data strategy or data-driven marketing, and more about the sources and the questions, and just genuinely having some fun with it, you will make much more progress towards your goals of consumer-centricity.

Megan Thompson is Head of Data at AMV BBDO and Chair of BBDO Data Council EMEA


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