December 4, 2019
As this is the impact issue, I wanted to reflect on a story I heard recently that tackles the topic head-on. A few weeks ago, an interview with Ian Graham,
Liverpool Football Club’s director of research, changed the way I think about football transfers. He has successfully married the beautiful game with stunning data analysis, and played a significant part in the club’s success.
Graham uses technology that was originally designed for missile tracking, to track every touch of the ball by every player in a game. As success in football matches is measured in goals scored, he analyses the team’s likelihood of scoring a goal before and after each touch. Now, there’s clearly some proprietary data analysis going on here, which the data team at Liverpool use to assign a value to any player’s likely contribution to the probability of their team scoring a goal.
Ian and his team avoid more straightforward industry-standard statistics like pass completion, because it’s easy to complete lots of safe passes that don’t create a positive outcome. Instead, they prefer to emphasise the value of the player’s contribution, and the likely impact they will have on the game, or as Ian puts it: “The thing I’m really obsessed about is the risk-reward payoff of passes.”
The team call this their ‘Goal Probability Added Score’, but we could just as easily call it the ‘Impact Score’. Liverpool FC have used this technology to drive their recruitment policy, signing lesser- known players with the data-driven potential to put in game-changing performance after game- changing performance. Using such a method might feel unconventional, but it gets results – they’re the champions of Europe.
This got me thinking about the work we do at Drummond Central.
Although the marketing and advertising sector may not be called ‘the beautiful game’, it’s probably fair to say that we’re sometimes – unjustly I’d say – relegated to the fluffier end of the business spectrum. But the thoughtful application of data is fundamental to what we do at each step we take with the ambitious brands we work with.
Now, I’m not saying that we have a black box system like Liverpool’s that will statistically guarantee the outcome of a campaign, but plenty of data exists to help guide our clients to the creative solutions that are most likely to be effective for their brands. It comes back to the risk-reward calculation that has served Liverpool so well.
We see the pressure clients are under to demonstrate marketing impact quickly, and recognise that it can feel easier to take a safe option at times. But even though it may take more courage to embrace what feels like a brave, creative solution, the data, much like Liverpool’s, points to likely future success. We know that highly creative campaigns are 11 times more effective than others at driving growth [Field & Binet, IPA]. Also, an analysis of 6000 award- winning papers showed that a brave campaign is also more likely to be highly impactful [Effies, Melbourne Business School].
To enable our creators to make the most effective creative work, we unashamedly promote the importance of a solid insight-led strategy as the foundation on which to create the impact clients are looking for, whether that’s building a brand, campaign or website.
We know in our industry, as Liverpool FC does in the football world, that being ambitious enough to see the risk-reward payoff helps produce effective creative solutions.