How Heat Cracked The Code On Getting Creatives To Use Data

Creatives still struggle to use data.

Holding companies may have spent $12 billion collectively on data assets over the past decade, but creative agencies still don’t know how to use those tools, according to Forrester.

But creative agency Heat has been able to bake AI into its creative process by tapping into its parent company Deloitte’s technologies. Deloitte’s ownership of tech also means Heat’s clients don’t have to pay for data and tech, said Jocelyn Lee, who heads up Heat’s AI practice.

“The cost for entry into new technology is expensive, especially if you’re an agency that doesn’t own the technology,” she said. “The client might be like, is the juice worth the squeeze?”

For instance, Heat has used a predictive risk assessment tool Deloitte acquired two years ago to find cultural trends to inform ad creative, and use those trends to build and upload new work within 72-hours.

Heat uses strategists to make sure this process works, Lee said. Most creatives can’t derive insights from data on their own, so Heat leans on Deloitte consultants and strategists for vertical-specific knowledge. Agency media planners and buyers then translate data into insights for the creatives to use.

“They know how creatives think and what they’re looking for,” Lee said. “They can interpret the numbers and data but also translate what those trends mean for the creative teams.”

Lee spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: Why is AI resonating at Heat when so many creative agencies are struggling to adopt technology?

JOCELYN LEE: Heat was looking at being bought by holding companies. The thing that really resonated with Deloitte was the business acumen they bring to the table. They know the clients very well. They know how to drive ROI. They know the things that impact business.

Deloitte is also very comfortable with technology. [Heat CEO John] Elder knew that the future of ad agencies was not just in creativity, but technology. We learn so much from Deloitte on a business and technology front. And I’m forcing us to be comfortable with technology.

How can you force creatives to be comfortable with technology?

One of the biggest fears was, is AI going to take over my job? Am I supposed to be looking at numbers now? There’s that tension at any creative agency.

[At first] the creatives were like, “We want to play around with the platform.” They did it for a day before they were like, “Actually, we’ll give you what you need and you tell us what the trends are.” Most AI is not just like a search engine. You have to play around with it.

[Creating a] 30-second spot is such a long process, but creatives love to see their work out in the jungle. Every 72 hours we have new trends coming in, and they’re creating new content. It runs until the next trend comes up and we switch creative. It’s very gratifying to see that.

Are you poaching your strategists from media agencies?

My best strategist came from a media and comms planning background. A lot of them come to me because I’ve been in the market for a while. People want to do something a little bit different but still be in the advertising space.

Do clients understand how you’re using AI? What questions do they have?

Clients need to see what work comes out of it and how it’s going to impact their bottom line.

[We worked with] a shoe retailer that felt like they were retargeting the same people and all of their advertising just featured shoes. Their target audience is sneaker heads, but sneaker heads don’t just buy shoes. They’re also interested in gaming, sports, entertainment, culture and politics. We used the AI to figure out trends in those verticals and latch onto that cultural conversation. How do we position ourselves in an interesting way that doesn’t come across as forcing a message through?

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