What role does social data play in the 'techno-creativity' challenge?
The fusion of creativity with technology is one of the most talked-about aspects of the current debate in vogue about the union of consultancies and agencies that the market is demanding. The so-called ‘techno-creativity’ makes it possible to amplify an idea through technology as well as to innovate into hitherto unknown areas.
The consultancies have broken into the field of marketing, forcing the agencies to pull their socks up with regards to using data; many of them are in the position of having to carve new USPs. “I suspect most agencies would acknowledge that they stopped being pure-play creative organizations a long time ago, even if the quality of their creative output continues to define them,” states Phil Lynch, managing director of social media research agency Newton Insight, and previously head of media evaluation at WPP's Kantar.
Agencies must face this moment as an opportunity to take the initiative and equip themselves with the necessary skills rather than be overwhelmed by technology and data. “The ability to extract insights from the data with the help of tools would provide a huge advantage in coming up with powerful solutions for clients on the basis of incisive insights and enable them to not only get the respect from the clients but also serve as a differentiator over other agencies and competition,” in the opinion of Salim Khubchandani, founder of On-Target who comes from the agency world (M&C Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather, etc.).
The consultancies also have an opportunity in their hands, so both must be prepared for the changes that we are already seeing and living. “There is an opportunity for the consultancies to build capability in a more rational and transparent way, which meets the needs of their clients and connects marketing with a wider suite of business research and analytics,” says Edward Bass, founder, and director of the audience intelligence consultancy EntSight.
The previous statement, that agencies have to pull their socks up with data, is partly due to the advantage of the consultancies when it comes to technology, as well as other aspects, in the opinion of Thomas Hirschmann, CEO, and founder of digital transformation consultancy Behavioural Economy. “In a way, classic consultancies will have an advantage when trying to take over marketing agency scope because of their better understanding of the commercial realities and needs of clients, their generally more effective - but not necessarily more efficient - way of working, and their generally better understanding of technology and industry contexts,” adds Hirschmann.
No one can deny that consultancies are gaining ground in the world of creativity. Each year, their presence in Cannes Lions grows: it is estimated that the entries from Accenture agencies across categories went from around 75 in 2017 to 150 last year, and the total number more than tripled again this year, reaching more than 500. For its part, Deloitte quadrupled the number of submissions in 2019 compared to last year, reaching 202 in total. "They're everywhere you go," reported Erik Oster on Adweek.
Data has always been around
Whilst data has always been around, and of importance given the insights that it can generate, its volume and critical importance has been multiplying and growing exponentially over the past decade. It plays an increasingly important role as the consumer landscape reveals, and helps extract, valuable insights, giving great importance to the consumer experience.
For Salim Khubchandani, social media has been a key driving force in generating large volumes of data and the resulting insights when the (largely unstructured) social data is analyzed. Social data and insights can thus bring different value to the consultancies or, on the other hand, to the advertising agencies.
In Khubchandani’s vision, “social data can, for example, be of immense value to consultancies like Accenture (or the likes of) in predictive techniques and forecasting in their inputs to marketers based on consumer sentiment, etc. Likewise, social data is also immensely valuable for creative consultants or agencies in sharpening their insights about consumers”.
Javier Burón, CEO of the audience intelligence platform Audiense, highlights that “in the case of social market and consumer research, putting audience affinity and segmentation data into the hands of the creative teams makes it so much easier for them to bring to life and implement their brand narrative”.
Understanding of human behavior as a survival factor
One thing is certain, the consultancies who had always known the value of data from the start of their traditional business models have now upgraded their skill sets quicker. They are now spreading their wings through acquiring creative players, which allows them to get the most out of data even in areas where they may not have that level and area of expertise, like creative. Whereas, says Salim Khubchandani, the creative agencies need to first overcome the “grossly erroneous fear and the perception that ‘data equals to technology’ and instead realize that technology is just an enabler in developing the social data and other similar tools which are now readily available for them and are user-friendly”.
The agencies have to position themselves in a smarter way to convince clients of the actual value they bring to the table, and, in the opinion of Thomas Hirschman, “this can only be about a deeper understanding of human behavior and hence the capacity to help clients truly connect with their target audience”.
“It’s not that consultancies pose a threat in any way to the creative and communications agencies since each has carved their positions in their fields of expertise, but it is the mindset, fear, and level of adoption to data analytics tools, which is a key barrier,” analyses Khubchandani.
The Audiense CEO touches exactly upon the importance of having technological partners to offer a 360º consumer view. “We’re seeing more and more companies that act as a bridge between the most cutting-edge technologies and the most disruptive and innovative agencies, simplifying the process of evaluating tools,” says Burón, who thinks the marketing teams should invest their time in adding value to their clients and not analyzing and configuring tools.