Back to all articles

The art of human-first creativity

Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
Mellissa Flowerdew-Clarke
VP of Marketing, EMEA
6 min read
27 March 2020

What does creativity mean in the digital age? There are multiple schools of thought on how the creative industries should adapt in the era of big data and omnichannel execution. At one end of the spectrum are creative purists, seeing the greatest campaigns as works of human genius that no computer could replicate the nuance of. At the other end, the data acolytes, with a belief that analysis and automation power the best work, and anything else is misguided and inefficient. As ever, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

This was the topic of the keynote talk ‘Redefining Creativity for the Digital Consumer’ at the 2020 Digital City Festival, delivered by Jake Welsh, a director at DEPT®. With a background in web design, Jake is the founder of experience design agency e3creative which joined DEPT® in 2019. Jake spoke on the opportunities businesses have in the digital age and how combining data and creativity can find the right solution to any business challenge.

Jake began with the DEPT® difference, that every team in the agency is composed of technology, creative and data specialists. This is summed up by the working philosophy: ‘We see the world through a lens of limitless possibilities.’ By combining the three disciplines (each group is working as more than the sum total of DEPT®’s parts), we can spot these new opportunities and execute well across any channel.

There is one question that clients always ask of DEPT®. How do you keep up with consumer advancement? “There are two things we need to accept. One, consumers live in a new digital reality. Two, they have advancing demands. Brands need to advance with the change.

This obviously begs the question – how? Jake took the audience through his process, referencing Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden circle of what, how and why.’ Too often, the industry focuses on the what, meaning the product and its benefits. This ‘what’ focus leads to manipulation tactics, like time pressure and price cuts. While this approach has its place as a short term activation, it is not a driver of long term sales.

Compare this to starting with the ‘why’ of a product or service. This speaks far more to our instincts and emotions, our ‘system one’ thinking, to use Daniel Kahneman’s terminology. Rather than transactional short termism, starting with the why means the consumer buys into the vision of the brand, rather than just the single product.

When we think of this in the digital space “the challenge is to build a new way of thinking. Human-first creativity, crafted by data.” Rather than looking at data as a cold-hearted piece of rational analysis, we should be looking at human oriented data. What does it tell us about people’s feelings and behaviour, their ambitions and worries?
At this point, Jake took the attendees through the nine emotive data points that DEPT® track, to give an insight into approaching any audience. 

A new generation of whisky drinkers

Following the thermostat example, Johnnie Walker. A brand with strong heritage, the drink of older whisky connoisseurs. As a result, Johnnie Walker struggled to engage with younger, more casual whisky drinkers, a key market to attract as a pipeline to future sales, seeing as connoisseurs have to start somewhere.

This problem posed three questions to Johnnie Walker. Do they accept their market position or do they aim to move forward? Should they change their core products, affecting their equity and values? Do they drive different messaging, potentially alienating the established audience?

“So what did they do? Johnnie Walker let data drive their creativity.” By understanding their audience, Johnnie Walker understood the needs that had to be met to reach this younger, new to whisky audience. It resulted in the creation of a new brand, The Haig Club. A brand that many don’t know is part of the Johnnie Walker family.

Their messaging uses David Beckham as a global ambassador, it shows Haig as a mould breaking whisky, a bottle everyone needs to be seen with, the drink of parties, youth and popularity.

But, most importantly, Haig was a pathway for Johnnie Walker customers. A creative solution, grounded in audience data.

Reinventing horse racing

Referencing DEPT®’s work with Royal Ascot, Jake took the audience through the Ascot proposition. Before DEPT® were involved, the brand based their communications around their strong heritage and put horse racing and jockeys at the forefront.

Royal Ascot saw their customer as competitive by nature, knowledgeable horse race enthusiasts, visiting Ascot to see the best racing in the world. “We did some digging. The reality, 42% didn’t know how to bet on horses and 61% bet by a horse’s name. 70% were more worried about the weather than the racing and 86% were there for the food and drink.

So rather than in-the-know tipsters, DEPT®’s data deep dive found that the real Ascot audience were there to eat and drink, not to bet on races. Their number one worry was what to wear, not who to put money on in the 5.35.

This data allowed Ascot and DEPT® to reinvent their proposition. Ascot was no longer a heritage racing course, it became a place to be with friends and make memories, a place to eat, drink and be someone else for the day. Most importantly, Ascot is where you dress to impress.

Jake showed the audience DEPT®’s creative campaign for Ascot, with horse racing literally in the background, as well as the accompanying app. The app providing the answer to any question about the weather and available transport home — very important after a day of not watching the races.

The results, a 46% increase in online revenue increase, a 32% conversion rate increase, 34% more ticket sales, 8% increase in average order size and a 428% boost in data opt-ins.

Wrapping up, Jake summed up the presentation in one take home point. “Consumers have advanced with their desires and needs. Consumers want more from you. Find out what it is. Give it to them.”

More Insights?

View all Insights


Executive Creative Director

Jake Welsh