Engineering the outcome: the new imperative around creativity and data

Janet Balis

Janet Balis,

Leader of the Strategy/Customer Consulting Practice for the Media and Entertainment Industry, EY

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New innovations are disrupting the media and entertainment business. What does emerging technology mean for audiences, business models and the very nature of storytelling?

Digital has created a new world order. For those of us in the media and entertainment industry, gone is the simple, linear model, where creativity finds distribution and monetization. Technological innovation and consumer behavior have led us to a new reality. Today’s world order, unlike anything we’ve seen before, is more atomized, disintermediated, complex and, above all, dynamic. That new reality is harder to manage and challenges our ability to create value in the businesses we lead. The key is to interweave creativity with data to maximize the consumer experience and, ultimately, the business model.

In this industry, creativity is prized above all else. And, the art of the craft must be honored.

Storytelling must remain paramount. But combining creativity with data allows us to explore the experience in its many forms and still understand the strategy holistically. Data will play an ever more influential role as the consumer landscape’s complexity unfolds. Data unlocks key insights, putting the human experience at the very core.

A new way to think

This new reality requires us to think with our right and left sides of the brain. But in the organizations we lead, creativity and data sit in separate silos. It’s a natural divide. We are labeled from a young age as a creative or a “quant”. Our organizations consider us editorial or business. We are art or we are science. We must break down the silos in our companies to empower creative teams to access and understand more data while data teams think more creatively.

Changes in the landscape create new challenges and opportunities for creativity

We have transitioned from brands to experiences. In the old media reality, it was sufficient to have a clear value proposition for a media or entertainment brand, produce content consistent with that vision, and market it effectively. But the bar is higher now and the consumer reality challenges the notion of “destination brands”. Bespoke, compelling content remains the priority, but consumers have powerful expectations around the role technology plays to enhance storytelling. From augmented reality to connected experiences across the physical-digital divide, we have the opportunity to deploy innovation to drive new dimensions of the consumer experience.

Man eating popcorn on sofa while watching TV, looking shocked.

Storytelling must be native to the form factor. As we look at the explosion of venues in which content can be experienced, the form factors multiply exponentially. Our content may be experienced in linear or digital, on devices we hold in our hands or watch on our walls, and ultimately in what we today consider non-media venues – like connected cars. We must create content that is intended to be consumed within the technical specifications of the form factor (like its aspect ratio) but also must pay close attention to the context of the experience. For example, we may produce content for mobile and simplistically assume that the content is for a human “on the go”. However, 51% of mobile video viewing is actually taking place in the home. We must concentrate on the actual experience of the humans engaging with the content in a very objective data-driven way.

Off-network distribution is the new reality. Hand-in-hand with the explosion of content experiences comes the realization that media and entertainment companies must undergo major transformation to master “off-network” distribution. What is “off-network” distribution? It’s the simple notion that the content will likely be experienced in a venue that a media brand does not control – we are borrowing someone else’s platform and audience. While we are familiar with borrowing the venue of a theatre to distribute a film or cable network, it is less natural across the multitudes of new platforms. And thriving on each platform requires different production skills, contract management and revenue optimization. These are skills we are developing as an industry, but we are far from mastering them.

From research, to analytics, to business intelligence, it is data that allows us to put the atomized experience and business model back together.

As we contemplate the new reality of technology-enhanced experiences across a multitude of formats, and a shift to off-network distribution, the complexity of managing a media business multiplies exponentially. While we cannot change that consumer reality, we can understand it comprehensively by sharing and using data across all elements of the business. From research, to analytics, to business intelligence, it is data that allows us to put the atomized experience and business model back together. And, if we enable real-time action from that data, it also enables us to respond to the supremely dynamic nature of the landscape.

Data not only allows us to manage the business holistically, it also allows us to enhance the consumer experience. Data allows us to drive more personal relevance for audiences by anticipating human needs, reducing noise and unwanted clutter, and refining the art. And, as creativity abounds across platforms, humans will require more, perhaps machine-led, discovery to identify the content that delights them most in an increasingly multi-channel, cross-platform, unnavigable world.

What’s next?

As soon as we understand the new landscape, it will change. Just as we have mastered social media, our industry finds itself in the midst of yet more disruption. And the convergence with automotive is imminent. The innovation treadmill shows no signs of slowing. What does creativity look like across the new devices, experiences, and platforms showcased recently at CES? And how will it evolve as those innovations are adopted at scale? What is storytelling as a voice-enabled, geo-fenced, wearable, chatbot connected with and featured in new forms of entertainment displays?

Transformation of the companies we lead at this dramatic moment requires some degree of humility as no one has the precise answers. However, key questions challenge how we deploy creativity and data in parallel and help us realize the potential of the future:

  • Is the human experience at the core of the strategy?
  • Is our business model aligned to the present or the future?
  • Are we enhancing creativity with data?
  • Can we truly see the dynamics of the experience we create?

Watch Janet's full presentation on Creativity and Data given at CES 2017