THE BLOG
27/05/2014 09:45 BST | Updated 22/07/2014 06:59 BST

Cannes 2014: Transforming Data - From a Buzzword Into Brilliant Ideas

Earlier this year, Senta Slingerland, Director of Brand Strategy for Cannes Lions came to talk to M&C Saatchi Group. It was a great insight into what was winning at Cannes 2013 - and why.

Again and again, the same themes cropped up; Purpose. Story-telling. And data.

This interested me enormously. Purpose and Story-telling translate directly into award-winning creative. But data? We might all be talking about it - but it seems there is a struggle to turn it from words into action.

What will the 2014 awards bring? I think we'll see data as a component of creative, but still as a one-dimensional component. Take OgilvyOne's BA 'Look Up' poster, which is sure to do well at Cannes and probably in the Direct Lions. Undeniably a smart use of medium - but isn't it an idea rooted in technology rather than genuinely using data insight to engage with me in a personal, motivating way? That's what I want to see winning at Cannes.

I know that Direct as a category is booming. CRM is a sexy discipline. There, I've said it. The ability to take a big brand promise and make it personal... who wouldn't want to do that? It's all made possible by data - and that's why it's the hot topic that it is.

Yet when you look at what won in the Direct category last year, it's clear that data is not yet translating into award-winning work. In fact half the work in this category lacks a truly personal component. It seems as long as there is a Call to Action it can be considered in this category. 'They've watched the film, that's a response isn't it?'

This is something me and my colleagues debate at length. We think that to do truly great direct work is incredibly hard and what should be considered in this category needs further definition. We've come to the conclusion that for work to be considered award-winningit should tick all these boxes:

• You need to know someone or want to get to know them. DATA

• You need to make them feel something. COMPELLING CREATIVE IDEA

• You need to make them do something. RESPONSE

• And you need to prove they've done it. MEASUREMENT

If these criteria were met then we'd be seeing more award-winning work that really unlocks the magic in data.

And work IS being created that fits this tough bill. Take the brilliant 'Airforce FM' work that was Direct Finalist in 2013. 'Before you hear the radio ad. Build the radio'. They had a brief to find the most skilled radio technicians for the Air force. They targeted engineering students with direct mail including all the pieces needed to build a radio, except the instructions. A bespoke radio station, Airforce FM was developed for the campaign and if you successfully built the radio you could tune in and hear just how a career in Airforce could be for you. A brilliant recruitment campaign that unsurprisingly smashed its targets.

A fusion of data and great creativity. That's the alchemy I'm looking for. And that's what I want to see in this year's Direct category.

At my agency we feel so passionately about this, we've decided to host an event in Cannes this year called 'Direct is Dead'. We've invited Creative Directors from across the globe and asked them to send us examples of work they think is exemplary in the Direct category. Along with work they think shouldn't have won in this category.

We're after fierce debate and, most importantly, to drive passion in this sector. It's time to reclaim this category and push for work that truly unlocks the potential in data... turning it from words on people's lips to brilliant category breaking ideas.