Samsung Agency Cheil USA on 'Thin Slice' and 'Thick Slice' Data Talent

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Tracking agency adoption of data-driven strategies is pretty easy in the media planning sphere. Media agencies partner with trading desks, data platforms, demand side platforms, and others to launch and optimize audience buying programs. With creative and "general" agencies, the adoption curve is more obscure. But if you squint, you can see it.

Take Cheil USA, an agency partially owned by its main client Samsung. Cheil is an example of a general agency taking baby steps toward more integrated use of data in launching new work for clients. Its recent work features magnetic male stars performing incredible feats – such as a video of David Beckham banging out the notes to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" by kicking soccer balls against a wall of drums – and another depicting James Franco as a multitasking genius. A new video, launched on Friday, glorifies street artist Tristan Eaton and is meant for a slightly more niche audience.

Cheil USA CEO Alex Van Gestel tells AdExchanger, "With the analytics that are available to us now, the data that's constantly coming in… We've constantly got to look at behavior in relation to what we put out in the world, relative to a piece of content. The planning team is hour by hour looking at people's reactions."

He says the agency uses a "thin slice" / "thick slice" metaphor for data that divides analytical talent into right and left brain capabilities.

"'Thin slice' planners extract the softer, intuitive emotional intelligence on consumer behavior and distill that into the essence of an insight to inspire creative leaps and work across platforms. 'Thick slice' planners are more analytical and able to deep-dive into the number crunching, developing insights from data analysis of specific channels, from the bottom-up. It's a marriage of left and right brained talent," he said.

Cheil works with Samsung media agency Starcom MediaVest Group on online ad buying but it claims to also dabble in exchanges through its in-house media practice. We asked for a comment on this and got the following:

"Cheil USA is a platform-agnostic communications agency. As the media planning agency of record for Hankook Tire and through our work for Samsung, we have applied integrated media strategies involving programmatic media and exchange based media planning for our clients in support of their campaign objectives. These practices are becoming more popular as they benefit clients seeking ever-increasing efficiency and re-targeting capabilities."

The agency has also hired a new chief strategy officer, Yusuf Chuku, to help it integrate a wider range of channels and disciplines, including creative, communication planning, campaign analytics, and media buying.

"With the hire of a CSO, we were looking for a hybrid and someone who is a very modern planner, with the skills to look at planning holistically – across digital, communications and experiential. He had that mixed up background," said Van Gestel.

Samsung at one time owned all of Cheil Worldwide, but is now a minority investor (about 15 percent, depending on fluctuations in the Korean Stock Exchange, says a rep). Globally the agency now operates 51 outposts in 28 countries, with a headcount of about 3,000.

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