In-Scope: How data got me on stage at Vivid Ideas

Katy Eng is the Director of Content Strategy for OMD Create Sydney, using data-led insights to create strategic content recommendations for a range of clients and their business challenges.

As Vivid draws to a close, I look back fondly on this year more than any other, because this was the year I made my debut on the Vivid Ideas stage.

Both the process to getting on stage and the material we presented were interesting (if I do say so myself), so I wanted to document them here for a wider, curious audience. Consider this an insider’s look at how to land your spot at Vivid Ideas and a lesson in using easy, accessible data points to make business and creative decisions.

How it all started

I say “material we presented” because I had a partner in crime, one Mr Jasper Sadubin (our OMD Create Head of Social and Innovation), who is credited with discovering the Vivid open casting call for speakers at their Ideas sessions. Maybe I shouldn’t say “credited with” and more “responsible for”, because the minute I agreed to pitch an idea was the minute I became insanely nervous about actually getting accepted!

Jasper and I took a good hard look at our capabilities, knowledge and skill set to determine what we had to offer Vivid Ideas. It didn’t take long before we realised that sharing our day to day skills, namely, using data to inform marketing challenges (and specifically social and content strategies) was the money-maker, and our key to ascending those stage steps.

So we pitched our idea of using easy-to-access, free (or cheap) data tools to analyse Vivid itself, and showed how others can analyse and apply data to create actionable insights, no matter what industry they’re in.

Why use Vivid as the subject matter?

Vivid Ideas is an interesting event. In terms of attendees, it’s not hard to recognise that the types of people who go are typically marketers, media and advertising folks, creatives, entrepreneurs and the like. The challenge for us was to create an application for our data tools around a topic that everyone could relate to, and to do it in a fun way. Because, hey, people were going to pay money for this and take an hour out of their days to attend – it’s a big ask in this day and age!

Vivid itself seemed like a great focal point and something everyone could really dig their mind-grapes into. Music and Ideas and Lights. It’s just as interesting to research, so it made our job really fun too.

OK, we got accepted. What’s next?

I’d like to take a minute to shout out the folks at Vivid. They run an organised and tight ship over there. They know what they’re doing. This isn’t their first rodeo.

From the minute we got accepted, it was a highly organised production. From email comms to a walk through, to run sheets and tech support. They’re there to work with you and enable you but ultimately, they empower you to deliver the best talk of your life and really trust that ‘you got this’.

What surprised me about the process was that you market your event yourself, price your tickets, implement as basic or advanced advertising as you like, and fingers crossed, sell out!

This ended up being a really fun (and just a teensy bit stressful) part of the overall experience but fortunately, we had a free Taboola Creative Trends tool we could use to help us determine our social creative imagery and keywords to optimise our copy. It looks a little something like this:

Taboola Creative Trends show you best practice for best performing social creative and copy in your industry/vertical.

With some variations, A/B testing and some strategic mentions in Vivid’s own marketing pushes, we managed to sell out (at the last minute, which we’re told is normal!) and then it was on like Donkey Kong.

Event Brite data shows how Vivid Ideas ticket sales typically sell up to day of the event – we were told this is normal!!

Writing the actual preso… the most important part!

As I said before, Jasper and I use data points Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, to help a variety of clients with their social and content strategies, and to inspire creative. I say inspire because we firmly believe that we are helping to guide creative ideation, not dictate to it or override it. That’s not just lip service, we love working collaboratively with creative! We just feel that, being 2018 and all, creative ideas deserve substantiation and to be taken seriously. And using supporting data around an idea is a pretty powerful way of legitimising it. I’ve seen it firsthand.

Our methodology for analysing Vivid

For this presentation, we used some old data friends in social listening tools and keyword search demand, and some newer toys like Local Measure to look at Vivid over the past few years: what articles they’re reading and what else they’re doing when it’s not Vivid time, what people are searching for, talking about and sharing on their social feeds.


A snapshot of the tools we used to analyse Vivid. Also, here!

What we found were some interesting trends and opportunities for improving an already stellar event.

Our findings (some of them at least)

When you think Vivid, you most likely think about the light installations and illuminations first. That’s been the heart, soul and origin of Vivid since 2009, and it’s still the most iconic part of the festival. But what we found interesting was how much Vivid has grown and physically expanded year on year, giving people an ever-growing list of places they can visit. So, what’s most popular?

Setting out to look at this, we expected the good old Opera House to be far and away the main attraction of Vivid Light. We were right on that front, although people only posted half as much about it in 2017 as they did in 2016.

Meanwhile, Circular Quay, traditionally the most popular precinct, has been usurped by Darling Harbour. This is an interesting fact that Vivid could take into consideration when planning which precincts to promote in the future, and how to crowd control to avoid negative sentiment from the masses.

Social Listening tools help us understand where people are and what they share.

Local Measure is a real time, geo-fenced social listening tool which confirmed Darling Harbour continues to dominate our imagination in 2018.

Then we started to think about where all the masses of people come from each year. Are there trends? Opportunities for more interstate visitors (and therefore more tourism dollars in the old proverbial pocket)?

Again, we were a bit surprised by the findings. Vivid seems to increasingly capture interstate imaginations, providing huge revenue opportunities for hotels, restaurants and airlines to get them here to experience Sydney winter magic.

Social Listening showed that The Age and Brisbane Times were actually the #1 and #4 drivers of social conversation (or “buzz” as we usually say) in 2017.

Social Listening reveals Melbourne and Brisbane are super into Vivid Sydney, no matter what they say!

Google Trends backs this up, showing “Vivid Sydney” is growing in popularity amongst our interstate friends to the north and south, and our South Australian friends stubbornly refusing to buy into the hype it seems…

Google Trends shows how “Vivid Sydney” search terms have trended in recent years on a state by state basis. What’s up with you, South Australia?!

Many clients are seeking advice when it comes to their social channels. Am I posting too much? Not enough? What should get promoted? So, we use tools like Socialbakers to analyse content performance to date, and that’s exactly what we decided to do for Vivid as well.

What was interesting was the amount of content posted in the Vivid “pre-season,” “mid-season” and “off-season” as I like to call it (I think I am mixing up my sports analogies here), and how much people engaged with that or how effective that content was.

Pre-season and off-season content drives huge amounts of engagement from the Facebook community, but the highest amount of posts from the Vivid Sydney handle happen, understandably, during the festival itself. These posts receive substantially less engagement, leading me to think that when Vivid is off, we will happily engage with any reminders of our favourite winter festival. So, when Vivid is lights, camera, action, we are potentially drowning in content from publishers, our friends, family and co-workers.

If I were Vivid, I would consider re-investing my creative resources elsewhere during May and June, because the rest of Australia (and a bunch of overseas tourists) totally have our backs on this one.

Social media monitoring tools show how much engagement you’re driving relative to how much you’re posting.

I might, oh say, invest my time in creating fewer overall posts, but focus my budget on video as my main engagement driver. As you can see below, although Vivid focuses more on still photography, video drives way more reactions, comments and shares.

Sometimes marketing is as much about what you can be doing less of (to save time, money and resource) as what you should be doing more of, hey?

Social Bakers shows us that video is Vivid’s secret weapon for social engagement.

Our final look was at Vivid Ideas itself: the main reason we were analysing this data to begin with!  The Ideas organiser was in the room as we presented this (talk about a bit of pressure) but, being the lovely man that he is, he loved the insights and gave us high praise afterwards (thanks, Julian!).

What is interesting here is that although Vivid Ideas drives the lowest amount of search volume vs. all other elements of Vivid (Light, Music, etc.) as well as the fewest interstate travellers, the folks that do attend are cut from a different cloth than your average Vivid-goer. More than that, they are super passionate and engaged. These are people who get into something and really get into it! Your ideal customer, you might say.

Google AdWords shows Ideas is still a more minor part of Vivid Sydney overall. Something we hope changes in the coming years!
 Google Trends suggests people will travel for lights but not ideas.

Followerwonk data shows the higher engagement of followers of Ideas vs followers of Vivid Sydney and the overlap/non-overlap. Depending if you’re a glass half empty/full kind of person.

In summary

Like I said during our actual presentation (as I looked out at 200 shining faces and a brightly lit Opera House in the background), we are big fans of Vivid. However, everything can be improved and the opportunities data can spot for you, no matter how big or small, cannot be ignored or pushed aside.

We concluded our talk on 30th May with some Guiding Principles when it comes to data analytics and application and, in the spirit of sharing, I thought that’s how I should end this article.

So here we are, some things to remember in your data journeys. God speed!

  • Start with a question or a hypothesis you want to prove – it creates a much more focused analysis
  • Trends matter, outliers don’t. Try not to get excited by a data point that is telling you something wildly out of context. Try to substantiate it with another data point to verify.
  • Data can fuel ideas but also BE the idea! Just look at Spotify’s out of home campaign in the UK.

Spotify UK used data as the creative.
  • Don’t be creepy – respect privacy!
  • Data takes collaboration. For our presentation, we collaborated with some really smart people in SEO, social media, social listening and publisher side.
  • Remember to measure. Track your results when data fuelled your idea vs. a time when it didn’t, and measure the improvement. Otherwise, what’s the point?!

And a final note to our friends at Vivid Sydney: call us! We’d love to present our 2018 findings next

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