In-scope: Marrying Art with Science

Matilda McMaster is a Senior Social Insights Executive in OMD Insights, offering comprehensive end-to-end marketing and consumer driven research solutions.

How can my content be more creative for my audience? 

Are we creating too much? 

How should we be amplifying our content? 

Are we giving our content time to grow? 

These are some of the frequent questions we hear from our clients; and in a content-first eco-system it’s becoming more important than ever for brands to ensure they are creating content that connects, adds value, has relevance, is discoverable and therefore cuts-through their audience’s share of attention.   

With just 5% of online content accounting for 90% of engagement; it’s up to us as marketers to ensure we are implementing a data-led strategy when it comes to content.  

Let’s just clarify one thing first; I would never discredit intuitive ideas, the ones that come from gut feel alone. These ideas have made some of the best taglines (Nike’s ‘Just dIt) and most awarded campaigns in history, but today we face a real challenge of content shock and storytelling overload –  impacting brand cut-through and the level of consumer connection – therefore, content must be intelligent; it must be a combination of data and heart if we wish to succeed.  


But what is the perfect ratio of Art and Science? 70/30 or 50/50?  

Now as I begin my journey around this secret sauce, the recipe for the right balance of art and science; I think it’s important to note that I don’t believe there is such a sweet spot that can be applied as an umbrella methodology to each brand or category. For example, various tech companies operate to a 70/30 model; 70 of science and 30 of art given their wealth of rich consumer and sales data. However, for an FMCG client we tend to see this shift to a 50/50 model – illustrating that while there isn’t a one shoe fits all approach, there will always be a role for Art working with Science when it comes to content marketing – both need to work together to create successful content strategies. So, for us, let’s call this secret sauce ‘Intelligent Content Solutions’ (ICS). 


Both Art and Science are needed for great Content Marketing. 

The Art, or as I label it; the qualitative why behind the data enables us to create a deeper and more meaningful connection with our brands and their audience. The art is our heart, it taps into emotions, and experiences, and it allows us to empathise with our audience. It’s the tone, the creative language and the visuals needed to connect, it’s how we create the story.  

In my role, as a content analyst I must understand what my audience consumes and what they engage with, how content makes them feel and how it motives them, and what their interests are and what they say.  

So then, on to the science…  

The science is what I refer to as the what, it’s quantitative, it’s data-driven and enables us to make data-informed decisions and to recognise informed opportunities and gaps; it’s creating strategies that are based on fact. It’s a process of analysing data and creating intelligent insights. The science is the data and analytics, it’s the metrics and it involves benchmarks, testing and measuring current and retrospective learnings.  

You need the data to measure progress and performance but also to optimise. Data ensures we increase precision and accuracy.  

It’s also important to recognise the role of technology and sophisticated platforms, however, this is the enabler and not the intelligence.  


So, let’s further explore this collaboration of methodologies. There is still that role for the gut feel and intuitive content, however ideas and stories must now be accountable. 

The art brings to life the data analytics, it combines the why with the what. Without the input of each, both art and science falls short. Together this collaboration creates intelligent content that drives connection, action and ultimately revenue for brands.  


The key is collaboration. 

My biggest learning throughout my time at OMD has been not only the collaboration between these two approaches but the collaboration between brains and people; creating a symphony that is revolutionising the creative process.    

Now let’s take this lens further inside the walls of OMD. We have established a team of content experts from various facets of the business. Together this collaboration sees many data points coming together to create intelligent content solutions for our brands. Myself, bringing the why from qualitative Social Listening that allows the team to understand prescribed behaviours: what our audience resonates with, what they’re interested in and what they are saying (this is the heart); combined with Search Data where the team provides the what, and the actual behaviours, also testing and measuring hard metrics from historical data and learnings. This wealth of intelligent insight is then taken by our Social and Content strategists who then build intelligent, data-informed content and distribution strategies that are continually optimised based on both art and science.  


In a key case study (whose brand name is safe-harboured, unfortunately), the ‘ICS’ team provided a strategic recommendation that was Insights based, Social and Search Verified; to help our client navigate and better optimise their online content strategy. Our integrated intelligence, informed content topic creation, but also identified what existing content assets and creative should be optimised based on audience interest, whilst providing data-led recommendations for paid distribution strategies, and best-practice recommendations for optimisation’s and re-targeting strategies.  

From a consumer search perspective, our team pulled data and analytics surrounding keywords to identify key trends and patterns, as well as seasonality drivers. We also analysed the user journey – identifying key targeting and re-targeting opportunities, and analysed content performance based on tags and trackers. From a consumer Social Listening perspective, this enabled us to understand shifts in conversations, how key themes, news or stories impacted seasonality, consumer perceptions towards brand and competitive content, whilst also identifying audience appetite for content; ultimately, understanding what key themes and topics would have resonance.  

Another key example of Intelligent Content success, from this ‘ICS’ team was the marrying of Search with Social Listening to create the Ready for Take Off TV Show, a behind the scenes look into the world of Qantas. Social Listening learnings were used for character selection and to help develop the storyline, combined with Search data which enabled us to understand actual search behaviours including the most searched questions. This allowed us to work out the correct balance of drama, to human interest stories and to mechanical/factual-information. Bringing the heart together with the data, allowed us to understand audience resonance and apply data-led key learnings to inform creative optimisations. 

The same data points also helped to create a Social and Digital content and distribution strategy for Ready for Take Off. 


Other clients who have sought-after Intelligent Content, have come to the ICS team in order to use this ‘modern’ Content Methodology to provide strategic recommendation in regard to: identifying opportunities and gaps within the content funnel, refreshing topics and themes based on audience resonance, syndication and influencer integrations and partnerships, paid media distribution strategies, and Content Optimisations.  

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, Research Director at Gartner states, “there is a need to hone the craft of customer-centric storytelling, and build the skill, technology, and governance for real-time delivery of relevant content audiences will actually consume and find useful”. Content must be intelligent; it must be a combination of data and heart if we wish to succeed.  

Further case studies to be presented in further workshops within the agency. 

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