The Application of Data and Tech

Marketers should use data to guide creative strategy, with effectiveness as the ultimate long-term objective.

Source: WARC, 2019

This topic can encompass everything from robots replacing humans in repetitive tasks to data capability systems, to voice-enabled cars.


But this report is about applied creativity. In our research, you clearly told us that your experiments with data and technology are informed by best-in-class examples from across the creative community.


There are several key data and technology trends that come up when exploring shortlisted work and winners from Cannes Lions over the past few years.

We’re seeing more work using voice technology being shortlisted. In the Innovation Lions, 6% of shortlisted and awarded work used voice technology in 2017, compared to 20% in 2019.


We’re also seeing a growth in the amount of work leveraging technology or data to have some kind of positive impact on society. In the Innovation Lions alone, 57% of the winning work leveraged innovation for a good cause. Across the board, shortlisted and awarded work aimed at helping people with a disability or chronic illness rose from 6% in 2017 to 48% last year.

What’s clear in every scenario, however, is that the creative idea always precedes the data or tech innovation attached to it. As Fernando Machado says, technology is always a means to an end. An end that just so happens to delight and enthral a captivated and increasingly tech-native audience.


On the question of data usage, another key trend coming from the conversations in the Creative Data Jury room was the need to use data responsibly. Whilst it’s beneficial to brands to hyper-target customers, the jury were very conscious of awarding work that applied data in both an ethical and beneficial manner

“In this digital age, there’s lots of negative data like fake news, privacy violations, or hate messages. The Grand Prix winner of the Creative Data Lions [‘Go Back to Africa’] tackled this issue with a bold and impactful way. It changes negative messages into meaningful content. It created a new community with the power of data and contributed to the culture.”

Yasuharu Sasaki


Head of Digital Creative and Executive Creative Director, Dentsu, and Jury President of the Creative Data Lions 2019

“I think that technology is always a means to an end, never an end in itself. Sometimes our campaigns are tech-enabled. Tech-enabled creativity is where we often work best as a brand, though. Our best campaigns fuse the big idea and the best tech solution.”

Fernando Machado


Global Chief Marketing Officer,

Burger King

Looking at winners across the Lions, there are some powerful case studies:


Racial slur hijacked in ground-breaking piece of digital work

Terrifying statistic alert: the phrase “Go back to Africa” is used by an online troll every three minutes. Could a racial slur like this ever be turned on its head and made into a positive message? FCB Toronto dared to think so when working on a brief for Black & Abroad, a US-based travel company mostly selling holidays in Africa to members of the black community.


To create a series of innovative and highly-tailored ads for prospective customers, the agency fused jaw-dropping images of Africa with redacted social media posts which contained the phrase Go back to Africa. The ads drove traffic to a website that featured content sourced by using a new algorithm and Google Vision AI to sift through social media posts and hone in on the most inspiring content featuring holidaymakers for the black community vacationing in countries across Africa.

And the results?


  • 315% increase in brand visibility and 2x search interest in the brand.

  • 60% increase in booking interest; 89% also said this work had reduced the hate from the term “Go back to Africa”.

  • A Grand Prix win in Creative Data at Cannes Lions.


Volvo opens up its data to make the world’s cars safer

Before Volvo’s The E.V.A (Equal Vehicles for All) Initiative, few people were aware that women were 71% more likely to be injured in a crash than men. The main reason for this terrifying statistic is that most crash tests are performed using male crash test dummies.


In an attempt to highlight this issue and car safety in general, Volvo (who use both male and female dummies in their tests), decided to let the world see more than 40 years of their safety research and data.


In an innovative and thought-provoking piece of work created by Forsman & Bodenfors Gothenburg, the release of Volvo’s digital library – containing insight from 43,000 collisions – was accompanied by film, billboards, print ads and other material which had a truly global impact.

And the results?


  • 85 million views of Volvo’s film about the work.

  • More than 11,000 downloads of Volvo’s expansive crash data – potentially leading to improved vehicle safety around the world.

  • A Grand Prix win in Creative Strategy at Cannes Lions as well as double Golds.


Burger King Brazil set fire to McDonald’s ads

With a reported annual media budget that is four times smaller than that of their golden-arched rival, Burger King in Brazil came up with a sizzling piece of work that effectively hijacked McDonald’s entire ad output. Working with DAVID São Paolo, they added a new augmented reality feature to their existing app Burn That Ad, a piece of work which saw real-life McDonald’s ads (as well as McDonald’s-related Google image results, social posts and other media) ‘catch fire’ when viewed through a smartphone – with users then shown a Burger King ad offering them a free Whopper.


It was a gargantuan tech effort based around a dynamic database of every McDonald’s ad that BK could find – and also a high-spirited reminder that fire is at the heart of every flame-grilled BK burger.

And the results?


  • One million downloads in a month.

  • 56.4% increase in in-app sales.

  • One billion media impressions.


AI helps deaf children to read

Because deaf children struggle to associate letters with spoken sounds, it can be difficult to learn to read – something that can easily hold them back their entire life.


Working with FCB London, Chinese tech giants Huawei set out to tackle this – and demonstrate the power of their smartphone technology – with a heart-warming piece of work that used artificial intelligence to read the words of children’s books and have them signed by a friendly avatar (designed by Aardman Animations).


StorySign was a year-long endeavour featuring 11 international deaf charities and major publishing houses such as Penguin Random House which showed the world an amazing, positive example of Huawei’s Kirin AI chip in action.

And the results?


  • More than 128 million app film views, £11.4m of earned media and over 1,000 pieces of international coverage.

  • An improvement of the Huawei brand perception by 19.9% in two months.

  • A colossal four Gold wins at Cannes Lions 2019.


Westworld: The Maze – Alexa unlocks interactive Westworld adventure

Given the increasing ubiquity of Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, it’s no surprise that brands are exploring the medium as a novel marketing channel – few with more panache than HBO and their agency 360i New York, whose innovative activity around the Season 2 finale of hit show Westworld was a Grand Prix winner at Cannes Lions 2019.


Together, they created an original, immersive audio adventure game named The Maze, a masterpiece of technological innovation, with more than 11,000 lines of dialogue (from 36 actors) on hand to cope with the 400-plus choices that players were able to make.

And the results?


  • Within days of launch, Westworld: The Maze had amassed 1.2 million press impressions and went on to win more than 15 international awards and accolades.

  • Amazon mentioned The Maze on its Earnings Report call, hailing it an “exemplary” Entertainment skill created for Alexa.

First and foremost, we need to check our attitudes. Modern creativity isa team sport, therefore data scientists andthe tech nerdsneed tobe in the creative process from thestart, not after the ‘big idea’. Data can unearth the most surprising insights and technology can make previously unimaginable experiencesareality. Data and technology are democratized toolsbut themagic happens when unexpected connections are made between data, tech and creative. Or as I call it, ‘Data to Ta-da’.

Ronald Ng
Global Chief Creative Officer, Isobar