Opinion

The creative beauty of data: From Clemenger’s Snickers Hungerithm to Wales’ territorial police

Freelance creative strategist Antony Giorgione presents three examples which demonstrate how creative and data are no longer contradictory terms.

We have thankfully moved on from the days when the mere mention of data would make a creative think of focus-group testing and blanche. In this piece, I would like to present three disparate examples that demonstrate where the relationship between creative and data currently resides.

The first is one many of us are already familiar with – Snickers Hungerithm by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne. This campaign has received accolades from around the world and justifiably so, it is an inspired response to a brief.

Hungerithm is the dynamic pricing of Snickers bars at 7-Eleven stores, derived from an ongoing analysis of social media. A lexicon of 3,000 words was cross-referenced against the language used within 14,000 social media posts, and an algorithm was developed to measure the cumulative mood of the selected posts.

The angrier the messaging, the lower the price point on a Snickers bar.

Users accessing the Hungerithm site could upload a barcode coupon to their phone for the retail price depicted at the chosen moment. Within a five-week period for the first rollout of the campaign, the price changed over 5,000 times.

This idea succeeds on so many levels.

It aligns with the Snickers proposition ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ which has given Snickers a unique angle within the FMCG chocolate bar category, and has itself provided for some humorous TVCs. Hungerithm fits this proposition perfectly.

It takes things ‘through the line’ seamlessly into retail. 7-Eleven has already established something similar with its $1 Slurpee, whereby on a specified day anyone can take any sized container (within reason, apparently) and fill it with Slurpee for only 100 cents.

This day is particularly beloved of school children and kidults alike, and has been a consistent and successful aspect of 7-Eleven’s marketing over recent years.

With Hungerithm, this manufacturer and this retailer can roll out this campaign over and over again, aligning it with occasions where there might be a surfeit of online anger. And there is no shortage of those.

For me, it also represents something more.

Hungerithm shows how much the digital environment has expanded the narrative potential of the creative idea; as much a quantum leap over the TVC as the TVC was over print.

The second example comes from the world of data visualisation. Herwig Scherabon is a graphic designer based in Vienna who specialises in representing data in a way so as to tell a story.

(Click to enlarge)

The above example represents evictions filed with the San Francisco Rent Board. Each square represents a single eviction notice. On the left hand side the notices are sorted by reason, and on the right hand side each square is placed sequentially within a timeline from January 1997 onwards.

I must acknowledge the sadness and misfortune that underpins the circumstances depicted by this piece. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful image which in some ways finds itself blurring into capital ‘a’ Art.

At first glance, it may be comparable to abstract art but in truth it is more akin representational work. It reminds me of ancient Chinese scrolls that show a narrative unfolding as the eyes travel across the parchment, and yet all shown simultaneously.

Every square represents a person, couple, family or household. When I pause to consider the reasons for each eviction, the abstract of a square takes on the life of flesh and blood and each is emotively laden.

The scale of the piece also impresses.

I’m not sure whether Scherabon used software to interact between the data and the representation, or if each square had to be individually placed by hand so to speak. Under different circumstances, this sort of representation would make for an epic mosaic paving a town plaza or vast wall.

If you visit Scherabon’s website, you will find other fascinating and beautiful ways of presenting data visually. His focus is on social awareness, his results are mesmerising.

The final example comes from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) based in the UK.

A number of territorial police forces in Wales wanted to minimise the intrusion of inappropriate calls to their non-emergency ‘101’ police number.

The difficulty with this brief was that the police had not gathered any direct data prior to engaging the BIT – none of their call staff had been recording numbers of inappropriate calls.

Intuitive leap.

The BIT looked at the data they did have, and found that duration had been recorded for every call.

They reasoned that any call under 30-seconds long did not actually require police help and was deemed ‘inappropriate’ – whether a prank call or an ‘honest mistake’ misinformed enquiry.

From this, they looked deeper and found that the most significant proportion (40%) of these inappropriate calls occurred when the police call-staff picked up the phone after only one second.

Their analysis, as seen in the graph, shows that the longer the phone was left to ring, the lower the proportion of inappropriate calls. The inflection point was around six seconds at about 10%.

It appears that by the time six seconds had elapsed, pranksters had been given enough time to consider the error of their ways, and had hung up the phone.

The sheer brilliance of this approach is amplified when you consider what a conventional comms agency might have provided.

There would not be any poster on a police station or supermarket pinboard, radio or TVC ad relegated to community-service slot or experiential that could do the required job better, regardless of the creative content.

All that’s required is a six-second pause before answering.

For me, this response to the brief is as creative as either of the other above examples.

Antony Giorgione is a freelance creative strategist

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