When Data Meets Creative: Why Audience Insights are Critical for Video Publishers

One of the largest panels at Advertising Week 2017 tackled one of the classic topics in the advertising, marketing, media, and related creative industries: The strategic symbiosis of data and creative. The panel was moderated by Quynh Mai, Founder of Moving Image & Content. Her panelists included some of the best and the brightest stars in the business, namely:

Since I know you’re incredibly busy, let me share the session’s conclusion at the beginning of this column: Successful brands and disruptors are inverting the traditional “top down” approach that was driven by Creative Directors, who ruled the industry for decades. They are also abandoning the siloed organizational structure that has become a barrier to success in the digital age.

Instead, they are becoming better listeners and internalizing their data-driven audience insights across teams. That means they are adopting a data-driven approach to creativity and letting these insights drive the creative process instead of sticking with the old “Mad Men” approach. Instead of retrofitting strategy to support creative, the panel urged attendees to let data and insights lead creative. That was the big takeaway. Get it? Got it? Good. Now, most of you can get back to work.

But, for those of you who want to dig deeper, there were 10 other observations that Mai was surprisingly able to capture and summarize at the end of the session:

  1. Plato: Differentiate yourself.
  2. Wang: Establish your data approach.
  3. Plato: Learn about your audience.
  4. Traynor: Create for your audience.
  5. Reid: Engage with your audience.
  6. Klein: Use your resources to optimize online.
  7. D’Arcy: Use your resources to optimize offline.
  8. Wang: Think about the data in three dimensions.
  9. Traynor: Consider the context.
  10. Reid: Grow with your audience.

And for those of you who are now kicking yourself for missing this session, relax. Watch the video: “Data <3 Creative: A Strategic Symbiosis.” Yes, it is 41:46 long, but watching it will put you about a year ahead of most of your busy competitors, who stopped reading this column after the first 250 words.

Now, for those long-time readers who know that I tend to keep the good stuff on the top shelf or at the end of the column, whichever is hardest to reach, let me share the following strategic insights, critical data, tactical advice, and trends in the digital video marketing business. Hey, if I can be replaced with a video that’s 41:46 long, then I should stop writing now and start talking into my laptop’s webcam.

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Audience Insights for Online Video Campaigns

Why is it so hard to get the left-brained data geeks into the same room with the right-brained creative types when digital campaigns are being incubated? Don’t both sides realize that using your whole brain is more likely to be successful?

Well, the panelists decided that outdated organizational structures and “top down” approaches were to blame. And, it’s true that too many senior executives at ageing agencies still put too many talented people into silos like the “creative services” department or the “research” unit of the “marketing services” department. And then they put these different departments on different floors of tall buildings with slow elevators or even in different buildings in big cities – and are shocked, shocked to find that it’s difficult to get their employees to collaborate.

And too many senior executives at big brands have similar barriers to overcome. They’re still using org charts that are generally modeled after the classic military structure used by Napoleon from 1793 to 1815. Seriously. And marketers use a lot of military terms, including strategies, tactics, campaigns, objectives, officers, divisions, and territories that reflect the thinking of Albert W. Emery, an American advertising agency executive born in 1923, who said, “Marketing is merely a civilized form of warfare in which most battles are won with words, ideas, and disciplined thinking.”

So, it’s not surprising that the best and the brightest stars in 2017 would reach that same conclusion that Pogo, a possum in the classic comic strip by Walt Kelly, reached back in 1953: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” But, will a simple reorg save big brands and aging agencies from a similar fate? Is that the only way to ensure that you get the left-brained data geeks into the same room with the right-brained creative types when digital campaigns are being incubated?

There is an alternative approach that was discussed the day before this session was held. And, unfortunately, none of the rising stars who are familiar with this alternative approach were members on one of the largest panels at Advertising Week.

I’m talking, of course, about the moderator and three panelists from the session entitled, “#Sponsored and The Rise of Celebrity Influencers for Subscription & E-Commerce Marketing.”  Ashley Iaconetti, a reality TV personality who first appeared on ABC’s The Bachelor, Paul Desisto, a senior talent agent at Central Entertainment Group, Jolie Jankowitz, the Director of Influencer Marketing for FabFitFun, and Caitlin McLarnon, the Growth Marketing Manager of the US division of HelloFresh would have added a radically different perspective to the session on “Data <3 Creative: A Strategic Symbiosis” – if they could have squeezed an extra chair on the Shutterstock Stage at the Liberty Theatre.

They understand that tens of thousands of social media influencers and video content creators are not only data geeks, but also creative types. And these data-driven influencers and creators already work naturally and effectively in small teams – and generally outperform the traditional approach to producing engaging video content in less time and at a lower cost. All big brands or ageing agencies need to do is figure out:

Critical Data for Audience Insights 

Is this even possible? Yes, it is. I’ve already written about how Chobani uses sponsored videos to stir up yogurt sales and market share, GE’s sponsored videos electrify B2B and B2C audiences, and Dollar Shave Club’s video campaigns are doing just great.

In addition to these examples, I just looked at Tubular’s DealMaker and saw that 9,994 brands have sponsored 11,100 content partners, who’ve uploaded 49,500 videos in campaigns across 24 industries, 21 genres, and 123 countries in the last 90 days. So, it appears that lots of brands are kicking the tires of this alternative approach.

Tactical advice for Video Marketers and Creators

Even after you identify the right influencers, you still need to find the right engagement tactics. I provided a number of tips and best practices in “Schmooze optimization: What it is and why it expands views, engagements, and earnings on YouTube” as well as in “Schmooze optimization 2: The search for more B2B video success.” Yes, both of these articles were written back in 2013. But, I was either ahead of my time, or (more likely) no electronic-communications superhighway, no matter how vast and sophisticated, will ever replace the art of the schmooze. But, you also need to know how to measure the performance of your programs. Well, you’re in luck. I wrote a three-part series last fall on the:

In other words, long-time readers of Tubular Insights already know how to overcome these hurdles.

Trends in Digital Video Marketing

So, let me close with this honest analysis of these latest trends in the digital video marketing business. Unfortunately, they appear to be remarkably similar to the trends in the advertising business that David Ogilvy wrote about in 1983 in his classic book, Ogilvy on Advertising. Back then, Ogilvy lamented “the cult of creativity” and declared, “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.” He added that creative types who have a contempt for research “occasionally luck into a successful campaign, but you will run the risk of skidding about on what my brother Francis called ‘the slippery surface of irrelevant brilliance.’”

And my favorite chapter in Ogilvy on Advertising is Chapter 15: “18 miracles of research.” It begins with this warning: “Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.”

So, it’s sad that we still need to discuss the strategic symbiosis of data and creative in 2017. I would have thought that we’d already learned this lesson a long time ago. But it looks like the “Mad Men” era never ended.