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Reflecting on the best Data Creativity work coming out of the 2018 Cannes Lions Festival, Stuart Bowden, global chief strategy officer at Wavemaker, the second largest media agency network in the world, shares what stood out to him — and what that means for the future of the industry.

Data and creativity have seemingly been at odds. Some say data killed creativity. Some say creativity gets better with data.

There were over 500 entries for the Data Creativity category at Cannes Lions in 2018. Those numbers tell me the “can data and creativity co-exist?” conversation can finally be called off.

Clients and agencies the world over are fighting to resist the data-driven dopamine hit of the short-term, the last click, and the quick win. So it’s lovely to be able to see work in the Data Creativity category that shows short-term work can still be full of craft and joy. And it was even more delightful to see a Palais basement full of the fame-building big bets that we know make businesses grow.

Here’s the work that will stay with me long after the festival.

1. Data can make stunts more fun

“The World’s First Baby Marathon” from Kimberly-Clark, South Africa

Remember when people put cameras on their cats to see what they got up to while they were at work? This is that, but with babies and pedometers. Four (cute) infants were tracked in real time to see which of them would smash the 21 kilometer barrier first. It shows just how much kids wiggle around, and why they need flexible and comfortable Huggies.

Why it's noteworthy: Sometimes a product’s unique selling proposition and a simple brainstorm can create short-term stunts that just work. When you add a little bit of data collection and gamification glitter, you’ve got social catnip. Oh, and it led to a 29% increase in sales on a 29:1 ROI, if you’re interested in amazing results.

What it says about the future of brand building: Either that all brands will use competitive babies in their future advertising or that data makes stunts more fun.

2. Context + data = personalized ads = pure delight

“Data Into Dollars” from Xfinity Mobile, USA

I love this. I wish I had made it. I am angry that someone else got to make it. I am glad that it has been made.

The idea is simple: Cellphone data is expensive in the U.S. But because the exact cost is hard to isolate and identify, the status is quo easy to accept. The geniuses at Goodby Silverstein & Partners calculated the amount of data required for you to play 2,000 popular YouTube videos, identified the network you were using, and then used a pre-roll video ad to tell you how much more expensive it would be to watch the video on your current network versus watching it on Xfinity.

Why it's noteworthy: It uses context, data, and a much-abused ad unit to create funny and well-made personalized advertising with clear user value. It also tripled the search volume for Xfinity in the U.S., saving an amount of money so large, it might conceivably cover your bar bill in Cannes.

What it says about the future of brand building: Personalization is the new frontier for creative. I can’t wait to see more brands get clever with context and data.

3. When craft and data meet as equals, the sky is the limit

“The Ripple Effect Generator” from DNB, Norway

This activation for Norwegian bank DNB used public financial data to enable businesses to make automated, personalized, and utterly delightful films about the good things that their taxes make possible. The films come ready to be distributed and promoted socially.

Why it's noteworthy: If you don’t want to work on B2B brands, you’re missing out. A preference for working on the Coke account versus a bank client shows an unacceptable poverty of imagination. Banks are full of data, and they make things (money) that most people are deeply and sincerely interested in. Unfortunately, the B2B work that most banks create is ghastly and predictable. This isn’t. It’s wonderful.

What it says about the future of brand building: You’ll find it where craft and data meet as equals.