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This Year’s Creative Data Lions Standouts

AcxiomJuly 20, 2017

If you want to see the finest marketing and advertising work done in a calendar year, you’d do well to start with the list of Cannes Lions winners. Every year, the International Festival of Creativity curates and recognizes the best work produced by the industry.

A couple of years ago they started a new category recognizing how today’s marketers use data in increasingly creative ways. The introduction of the Creative Data Lions category validates the brilliant work being done with the involvement of data people – a group previously seen by some as being somehow separate from creative people. (Read my last post to see why this is such a big deal.) But it also brings to light some of the most innovative work being done in the industry.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this deepening collaboration than by sharing my three favorite category winners from 2017.

  1. The Grand Prix: Whirlpool’s Care Counts

The big winner this year was Whirlpool, which came up with an inspiring solution to an incredibly hard problem – keeping kids in school.

Data shows that one in five students in America struggle to have clean clothes every day. That has a huge knock-on effect. When they don’t have clean clothes, thousands of them skip school. When they skip school, every year 4,000 of them eventually drop out. And when they drop out, they’re likelier to stay unemployed, be on welfare and even go to prison.

That’s awful. But Whirlpool applied this insight and found a smart way to make a big dent in the problem. They went to 10 cities and 47 schools and installed washers and dryers in the building. They also fitted the washers and dryers with a customized system for further data collection. As a result, they could give students an easier way to get clean clothes and track the progress of students enrolled in the new program.

And there was a lot of progress to track. These schools now boast over 90 percent attendance consistently. Ninety percent of the students improved their attendance, with 89 percent increasing their participation in class and 95 percent of them joining in more extra-curricular activities. It didn’t just keep the kids in school – it made them more involved with school, too.

For Whirlpool, this was a huge win in marketing terms because the program (deservedly) got significant national press coverage. More importantly, more than 1,000 schools have requested Care Count machines for their schools.

  1. Gold Lion: AAMI Smartplates

AAMI is a massive insurance company in Australia. It knows better than most that a huge number of young drivers are at risk every year. When the company dug a little deeper it realized why – how teenagers learn to drive hasn’t changed in decades. Learners have to use inaccurate, tedious, manual methods to log their training hours.

So AAMI came up with a creative solution that’s also an incredible data product – a real-time, mobile driving tracker and coach, it motivates young learners by getting them to compete against their friends. The app tracks practice hours, road types, weather data and traffic density in real time to give learners customized data on where they can improve and what they’re getting good at.

By analyzing this massive amount of data, the tool can identify learning gaps and then find opportunities to fill them. If drivers aren’t ready for rain, the app will encourage them to go for a drive when the weather gets better. It’s safe to do that too because the app also knows the best places to practice. Then, after hours, learners can drill down into deep insights about their driving.

It’s an impressive use of data and technology, and it’s had a massive impact. For starters, it’s reached more than 16 million Australians, transforming the way young people learn how to drive. Even better, it’s earned AAMI more than $2 million worth of value in national press coverage, as well as the appreciation of a critical demographic.

  1. Gold Lion: Marriott International’s real-time command center

This last one doesn’t solve a massive social issue in the way the previous two do, unless you consider a good vacation potentially life-saving (I know I do). But Marriott International is using data and technology to completely transform the way it interacts with customers and forever changed the way it looks at marketing.

Like many brands, Marriott International realized you can’t force people to watch your content if it isn’t relevant. To deal with this Marriott created a new kind of platform based on relevance – the M-Live platform. It’s a data-first, always-on approach to tracking and engaging with their customers’ social activity. Crucially, it isn’t tracking mentions – it’s responding to messages based on the location they’ve come from.

By geo-fencing 6,030 (not a typo) of its properties in 120 countries, Marriott can use its proprietary platform to filter posts from guests on Instagram, Twitter and Weibo. Then, it can use their real-time command center to react to their guests’ experiences around the world.

Say a guy just proposed to his girlfriend at a Marriott hotel. Instead of trawling social media for people saying things about the hotel, Marriott can focus on bigger moments like congratulating the couple and sending them some celebratory champagne.

It’s an amazing new approach to customer engagement that goes above and beyond anything other companies have built. And it’s earned them a 100 percent rate of positive reactions on all these channels, with 82 percent of customers going out of their way to follow the company on them, too.

Most impressively, even though Marriott worked with a number of partners to make it work, this platform is proprietary – it’s built for and by Marriott. And it means this international hotel group has a genuinely different approach to omnichannel customer engagement.

That’s a massive win. It’s precisely why data-driven marketing is so valuable. And it’s wonderful to see Cannes and the industry at large increasingly recognize the innovative work produced by data-driven marketers today and in the future.