How can a creative approach to big data dramatically improve marketers’ understanding of their customers and markets for better results?

The unfathomable amounts of highly sophisticated data produced by consumers and accessible to marketers are increasingly difficult to fully comprehend and exploit. Creativity is key. Marketers must ask creative questions and imagine creative uses to extract the full value of big data.

We brought together experts from the analytics and marketing fields to help identify key opportunities, challenges and best practices, and to formulate creative approaches to exploit the full, untapped potential of big data in marketing. Confirmed Speakers included leading players in data warehousing and business intelligence, online retailing, pharmaceuticals, financial services, marketing analytics, consumer segmentation and profiling and more.

Marie Taillard, MBA, PhD
Associate Professor of Marketing, ESCP Business School.
Director, Creativity Marketing Centre @ ESCP Business School.

Keynote Speaker:
Edouard Servan-Schreiber, PhD
Director, Solution Architecture, 10Gen

Conference Programme

09:30 – 10:00 Welcome tea & biscuits
10:00 – 10:10 Chairwoman’s opening remarks: Marie Taillard
10:10 – 10:40 Keynote: Edouard Servan-Schreiber, Director for Solutions Architecture,10Gen
10:40 – 10:55 PeterAbraham, Executive Vice President, Econsultancy
10:55 – 11:10 Max Jolly,Global Head of Digital, dunnhumby
11:10 – 11:25 Mark Boyt, Director of Solutions, Xerox Europe
11:25 – 11:55 Refreshments
11:55 – 12:15 Panel 1:How to be creative at getting value from big data (practice sharing)?

Peter Abraham, Max Jolly, Mark Boyt, Ben Voyer

12:15 – 12:30 Judy Bayer, Director of Strategic Analytics EMEA, Teradata
12:30 – 12:45 Nick Moodie, Business Analyst, eBay
12:45 – 13:00 Jerome Couturier, President, 3H Partners; Associate Professor, ESCP Business School
13.00 – 13:20 Panel 2: Building great creative analyticalteams:

Judy Bayer, Nick Moodie, Jerome Couturier, Luc Osborne

13:20 – 14:20 Luncheon / Buffet
14.20 – 14:35 Nicolas de Cordes, VP Marketing Vision, Orange FT Group
14:35 – 14:50 Duncan Ross, Director of Data Science, Teradata
14:50 – 15:10 Panel 3: Ethical and privacy issues around creative uses of Big Data:

Tom van Laer, Nicolas de Cordes, Peter Stephenson-Wright, Duncan Ross, Anthony Rimmer

15:10 – 15:25 Sabine McNeill, Founder, 3D Metrics UK, Duncan Ross
15:25 – 15:40 Darren Oddie, MD, Agile Customer Insights
15 :40 – 16 :00 Refreshments
16 :00 – 16:15 Laure Reillier, Head of Seller Propositions, Europe, eBay
16:15 – 16:30 Max Ciferri, Partner, 3H Partners
16:30 – 16:50 Panel 4: Using creativity to avoid”analysis paralysis” in marketing and sales:

Sabine McNeill, Laure Reillier, Max Ciferri, Darren Oddie

16:50 – 17:00 Chairwoman’s concluding remarks
17:00 – 18:00 Wine & Cheese reception and networking


Speaker Presentation Synopses


Marie Taillard, Director Creativity Marketing Centre, ESCP Business School, UK

Marie Taillard welcomed guests and participants to ESCP Business School and provided a short introduction to ESCP Business School, the School’s London Campus and the Creativity Marketing Centre.  Against a context of commoditized markets, consumer scepticism and uncertainty, marketing departments seem to be losing their influence within their companies and need to rethink marketing in a more creative way – they must achieve a better balance between creativity and rigorous analysis, be more audacious yet more data-driven, build on constraints and contradictions, and above all, they must abandon “reproductive” thinking and stop following each other into the same formulaic strategies and programmes. The School addresses these goals in its Master in Marketing and Creativity, now recruiting for its fourth annual intake.

The new Creativity Marketing Centre @ ESCP Business School is being launched to create a community of Creativity Marketers in order to build a platform for knowledge and practice exchange, thought- leadership and theory development. It seeks to do so by combining academic research objectives and corporate practices and challenges. Today’s inaugural event shows the way forward for this new approach. 

Keynote Speakers

Edouard Servan-Schreibber, 10Gen

Comparing the emergence of Big Data to the discovery of paper in the Tang Dynasty, Keynote Speaker Edouard Servan-Schreiber encouraged the audience to consider the great potential for creativity unleashed by Big Data. Because Big Data is pervasive; easy to capture, store and transmit; cheap; scalable and deployable, it constitutes a fertile ground for creative ideas.  To this end, organisations should nurture a culture that encourages the launch of new data-based initiatives by making data easy for all to access and exploit.  They should facilitate the deployment and scaling of these efforts, while accepting eventual failures and turning them into learning opportunities.


Peter Abraham, Econsultancy

Peter Abraham, Executive Vice President at London-based Econsultancy argued that creative approaches to Big Data revolve around change, complexity and capability.   Change brought about in part by the explosion of customer touchpoints has challenged the traditional “Big Data experts” and made relevant data available directly to marketers, agencies and e-commerce vendors.  The complexity of the available data demands a customer-centric analysis across touchpoints and a clear sense of what to measure, when and how in order to yield “soft” data that translates into actionable insights.  Only by developing the required analytical skills will marketers be able to meet the challenge of knowing how to extract value out of Big Data and act on it – their creativity depends on the development of analytical skills and mindsets.


Max Jolly, dunhumby

Retail data expert, Max Jolly took the audience through a demonstration of how observed behaviours (purchases) can be turned into insights thanks to creative uses of Big Data, and can in turn provide the basis to offer greater relevance and value to customers over the course of their relationship with a retailer.  Beyond the loyalty objective, retailers are now also focusing on the advocacy objective – gaining quality insights and advocacy opportunities via social media.  Comparative results from a US-based retail client showed significant performance improvement associated with the use of social media data alongside other behavioural data.


Mark Boyt, Xerox

Print is not dead! In his insightful presentation, Mark Boyt discussed how Big Data could be used to generate personalised printed content and interact with customers. While marketers store an increasing amount of data about customers, most mailing campaigns still rely on sending standardised brochures and documents. Mark Boyt introduced the XMPie platform, by Xerox, which acts as a smart interface to personalise mailing based on customer information.  Overall, Mark Boyt believes Big Data can be creatively used to start a dialogue with customers and to better connect with them. With customers being surrounded by marketing messages and information, a smarter use of the data can result in an improved efficiency of marketing messages. A smarter use of the information also means using modern technologies to interact with customers in new ways (e.g. augmented reality).


Judy Bayer, Teradata

Judy Bayer, Director of Strategic Analytics at Teradata Europe, delivered a very inspiring presentation on the creative side of analytics. Her approach is based on adopting an intimate customer-centric view, often bringing vivid pictures of customers to mind in her quest to better understand their behaviours and their underlying features.  She demonstrated the example of building the profile, lifestyle and habits of an everyday customer, by using their retail footprints and mobile phone bills. She illustrated how looking at analytics through creativity, one can build a full customer’s profile and derive remarkable insights.

Laure Reiller, eBay
Nick Moodie, eBay

Laure Reillier, Head of Seller Propositions and Nick Moodie, Business Analyst at eBay presented the unique and highly effective perspective of how the marketer’s (Laure Reillier) and the analyst’s (Nick Moodie) concerted approach to Big Data within the same business unit can result in productive change and increased performance. Their case study illustrated a business challenge they had faced in communicating to eBay’s huge merchant base how best to adapt to the fast changing e-commerce environment. This environment required sellers to update their listings several times a month, and developed into a programme of automating listing updates, which was provided with guided support and tool training. The two speakers clearly demonstrated the use and scaling of Big Data data and scaling, in order to increase accuracy of targeting and content to deliver operational value to their merchants.  They exhibited first-hand the intricate and remarkable cooperation between a business/marketing unit dedicated to offering a better value proposition to their clients and an analyst who understands the business aspects and is able to offer creative solutions to his partner.


Jerome Couturier, 3H Parners

Jerome Couturier, chairman of 3H Partners challenged delegates to adopt a Big Data approach throughout the business process and in particular in the decision-making phase.  He presented various ways that companies can gain value and build a competitive advantage by the use of big data in decision-making, demonstrating the example of a large pharmaceutical and of a leading sports equipment manufacturer.


Nicolas de Cordes, Orange France Telecom

Could Big Data help us better understand population movements in Africa? Nicolas de Cordes, from Orange France, presented the D4D – Data for Development – program, piloted by Orange in the context of a UN program. In association with the Université Catholique de Louvain and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the program aim is to make large sets of Telco data, collected over 5 months in Ivory Coast, available to teams of researchers from around the world. The project will result in a series of scientific publications, and will help policy makers improve their understanding of phenomena such as geographical mobility or population density. The project also proved to be a challenging one, for instance to make sure the anonymity of the data was preserved. Yet, making Big Data sets publicly available represents a formidable way of sharing a new form of knowledge about populations, in countries in which existing infrastructures of data collection do not offer such detailed information.


Duncan Ross, Teradata

Duncan Ross from Teradata challenged the audience to adopt a philanthropic approach to Big Data by asking the question, why are some of the brightest minds of a generation focused on cutting churn rates by 0.2%?  Drawing on recent work by UN Global Pulse ( and Datakind (, Ross reflected on the positive impact that data can have on development and on humanity in general.  His remarks were a clear echo to the presentation by Orange’s Nicolas de Cordes on the crowd-sourcing use of Big Data for community development in the Ivory Coast. Of particular interest is the area of intersection between social media and Big Data which can not only provide large quantities of in-depth consumer insights from around the world, but also disseminate raw data and insights to allow creative solutions to emerge through crowd-sourcing.


Sabine McNeill, 3-D Metrics

How can one turn numbers into words and meaning? Sabine McNeill introduced her concept of ‘software lenses’, designed to gain deeper insights into consumers’ Big Data. Sabine McNeill argued that the richer insights provided by data can help us to improve our understanding of both actual and potential customers. Sabine McNeill also insisted on the importance of working with reliable metrics, and made a distinction between marketing metrics – analysing data from prospective customers – and business metrics – analysing actual customers. Sabine McNeill, who uses advanced mathematics models and visualisation with her clients’ data sets, argued that seeing more of the data, especially using advanced techniques, quickly overcomes the costs of generating these insights.


Darren Oddie, Agile Customer Service

Welcome to the world of Marketing 3.0! While some consumers still adopt traditional consumption patterns, many markets have been changed by the emergence of new technologies that have transformed consumption patterns. Darren Oddie, from Agile Customer Insight, argued that marketers should not stop at collecting and storing information about their customers, but should endeavour gaining insights from it, albeit with realistic expectations. However, marketers should not forget the value of ‘human capital’, which combined with Big Data insights, could give companies a real edge. Yet, the difficulty in finding marketing practitioners that are statistically proficient is often a problem. Darren Oddie also argued that marketers need to work more closely with external partners, such as advertising agencies and companies specialised in providing consumers insights, in order to maximise the value of their customer data information.


Max Ciferri, 3H Partners

Continuing on the theme proposed earlier by Jerome Couturier, Max Ciferri developed the notion of Big Data and decision-making.  In particular he presented an innovative “Control Tower” instrument which allows executives to access analytical reports and deep-dive into specific areas ranging from product sales to customer features to territory specificities.   Using such user-friendly tools, business and marketing teams are able to avoid the so-called “analysis paralysis” often associated with the availability of overwhelming quantities of data.  Technological advances have made it possible for data to be made available relatively easily and cheaply to individual manager’s desktops and even smartphones.  However being able to use data effectively and creatively in decision-making requires interfaces that structure the data and make it “speak” in a more relevant manner


Panel Synopses


Panel 1: How to be creative at getting value from big data

Ben Voyer, Visiting Professor (London School of Economics) launched the discussion by asking how data can help businesses in engaging and in creating a dialogue with customers. Fundamentally, personal data such as age, gender, marital status can reveal a lot about someone’s behaviour, as explained by Mark Boyt (Xerox). The discussion was centred around the fact that we are all connected all the time with the rise of smartphone usage. Apps on smartphones are now one of the ways to connect with consumers and huge amount of data can be extracted from the usage of apps. Traditionally, implicit messages were extracted from customer data, nowadays explicit messages can be received directly and commonly from customers voicing themselves through social media and the fact that everyone is connected all the time.

The next discussion theme was around content creativity. The issue is, how businesses can communicate more creatively with the help of data in an environment in which customers are demanding more. Peter Abraham (Econsultancy) emphasized on the vast opportunities available for communication both offline and online. The bar for communication content has definitely been raised. As mentioned before, apps are vastly used these days and because the smartphone is a personal device, the app is a very personalised communication tool. When a customer uses an app, they are essentially engaging with the company. Peter Abraham also emphasized the importance of aligning the relevance of channel and content with the target customer. Mark Boyt further commented by saying that the conversation of relevance can change in a moment of time and place; that context is very relevant in determining relevance. As Max Jolly (dunnhumby) said, the bar is raising but there is still scope to differentiate by doing it really well.

The panel discussion concluded with a discussion around the future of data. As data privacy and restriction laws and regulations are getting more rigid, Max Jolly shared his thoughts that marketers will need to educate customers on how the company is using data. Google is a particularly good example for this. The ethical use of data is predicted to be the next big issue. There is also the issue of companies collecting a lot of data but the market does not see a lot of personalised products. Feedback from the panel on that issue include companies not being able to see the value created by these data and there is a lack of understanding of how marketers can use these data. Marie Taillard (ESCP Business School) suggested a further potential issue of breaking consumers’ trust if information collected is not fully utilised.

Panel 2: Building great creative analytics team

What aspect does creativity add to analytics?

Judy Bayer (Teradata): It is qualitative and adds a huge amount of added value. It is incremental. Creativity makes every team richer and more diversified in ideas because of the different skills the team members have. Only creative organizations or organizations which have a creative approach will be leaders.

Nick Moodie (eBay): I think creativity comes in when big data is analyzed. You have to ask the right questions, which will then help you to get the interpretation and conclusion right.

Edouard Servan-Schreiber (10gen): Creativity is always needed since math is only a part of analytics. You want to get closer to the customer’s mind – be able to break it down and quantify it.

Jérôme Couturier (3H Partners): There is no analytics without creativity – it is a must, not an option. To make sense of all the mass of big data, creativity must be applied.

Audience member: Often when you ask an analyst, there is either a wrong or a right answer – which is often not correct and you have to look at the whole picture (creatively!)

Judy Bayer: There is a new trend in society – everyone wants to network and people are collaborating on every level. Therefore society is moving and enabling the process that analytics will be moving towards a collaborative fashion as well.

Audience member: Do you think that there are enough institutions at the moment which are teaching and enabling this combination of creativity with analytics?

Judy Bayer: There are a few programmes developed but mostly not since the institutions are still lacking interest.

Edouard Servan-Schreiber: No!

Chris Halliburton (ESCP Business School): Since the amounts of data have increased so rapidly it is now becoming self-evident that creativity is needed to solve analytical problems, right?

Edouard Servan-Schreiber: I do not think it is dependent on how much and how complex the data is, creativity is required for analytics – big or small.

Judy Bayer: It is a task for management to implement this principle of operation into everyday life whether you are dealing with a huge amount of data or not.

Laurence Clavere (ESCP Business School): What is the role and use of big data in product development in your point of view? Is there a big demand for big data from the product marketing itself?

Jérôme Couturier: Back in the old days, companies used to believe that they understood the market and its demands better and knew what was needed, but now companies aim to be closer to the customer and need the data and information from the customer’s own behavior to improve and satisfy customer needs and to develop the right products.

Nick Moodie: Yes and you have to analyze the behaviours to be able to draw conclusions regarding what consumers are missing.

Panel 3: Ethical and privacy issues around creative uses of Big Data

Participants in Panel 3 included Duncan Ross (Teradata), Anthony Rimmer (Agile Customer Insights), Tom Van Laer (ESCP Business School) and Peter Stephenson-Wright (ESCP Business School).  The discussion revolved around the value that Big Data can bring to consumers and more generally to society.  This question puts the onus on analysts and marketers to think creatively about how they can improve lives in a way that is ethical, relevant to individuals and society at large, and does not violate consumers’ privacy. Relevance here can be in terms of lifestyle, convenience and other benefits but also in terms of access to sensitive information.  Much of this relevance also comes from a trade-off between on the one hand, how much information is captured and the associate privacy and ethical issues and on the other hand, what the information is used for.  Trust can only be built between consumers and analysts (and the marketers using the data), if there is transparency between what is captured, why it is captured and how it will be used.

Some interesting points were raised:

(1)   The government captures much more data than it is able to process and could make great strides towards solving economic challenges if it were to better use captured data

(2)   Giving greater access to data to a wider range of people who can analyze it productively can potentially increase the value of the data at the same time as promoting greater transparency.

(3)   The crowdsourcing and philanthropic efforts discussed earlier in the day in the presentations by Nicolas de Cordes, Orange France Telecom and Duncan Ross, Teradata, were excellent examples of the potential societal value that can be extracted from data if the right framework is put into place, e.g., clear value objectives, broad access, purging data of any sensitive and irrelevant information and strong privacy parameters.

(4)   These “out of the box” uses of Big Data can also lead to the development of innovative, valuable and ethical analytical practices to be used in both the private and public sectors

Panel 4: Creativity in Big Data helps avoid “analysis paralysis”

Panel 4 discussants included Max Ciferri (3H Partners), Darren Oddie (Agile Customer Insights), Laure Reillier (eBay) and Sabine McNeill (3D Metrics).  The discussion started with a reaffirmation of the conference’s main theme: creativity is crucial to the productive use of Big Data and necessary to afford better marketing insights.  The panel then went on to discuss another, often overlooked, dimension in the role of creativity, its role in the decision-making process.  In this role, creativity plays an important role in avoiding the “analysis paralysis” syndrome that results from too much data being easily accessible by untrained marketing specialists, or even by senior decision-makers.  Not only does data need to be accessible, it needs to be made intelligible in a way that makes managers able to interpret it appropriately, in order to be able to use it effectively to make informed decisions.

The ability to interpret data, to apply common sense and to triangulate it with different types of customer insights requires creativity.  One panellist described how prior to making a decision about a proposed change to customer experience, data was used in the assessment exercise, but only in tandem with a more qualitative evaluation of how the change would be perceived by customers.

Visualizing data can make it easier to understand, more approachable and therefore easier to interpret and to use productively in decision-making.  Clearly the critical challenge here is to ensure that the data is represented and communicated in a way that is most relevant to the audience that will use it.   Some will prefer visual data while others favour a verbal or storytelling approach.

Instituting a dialogue between analysts and business decision-makers is critical. This dialogue was remarkably well illustrated in the joint presentation made earlier in the day by eBay’s Head of Seller Proposition and Business Analyst.  An important step is for the marketing manager to spend the appropriate amount of time at the beginning of the process thinking about the right questions to ask, a task for which creativity is key.  Panellists agreed that there is often a gap between what a marketing manager or decision-maker needs analyzed and what is actually analysed.  In order to receive relevant data from their analysts, marketing managers need to ask the right questions, and be sure that these questions are clearly understood. In other words, marketers and analysts need to ensure that they are speaking the same language.  Marketers often complain about analysts delivering unclear analyses, but it is often the case that the question the analyst has been asked to answer is unclear as well. Therefore, again, creativity is required on both sides in order to imagine what the other needs and how it will be interpreted.

Questions were asked about the inclusion of social media insights as part of Big Data analyses.  The consensus among panellists was that most companies are still grappling with these types of data, but that their role can be crucial in gaining a fuller picture of consumers and their attitudes and needs.

Concluding this topic, a question was raised about accuracy: how important is it to strive for full data accuracy.  A rather pragmatic answer was given “We always want to know the level of uncertainty we are dealing with, but of course, we never have 100% certainty. Not all the information we derive is 100% bullet proof. However, for a CEO 100% accuracy is not really important. What they really care about, are the insights and dialogues which is driven from the Data.”  This again confirms the role of data as a starting point for creative problem-solving and decision-making, rather than a fail-proof solution. In practice however, panellists confirmed that often a decision will be made on instinct prior to the availability of the data, which will then serve to confirm the decision.