When The “Pope” Tweets, Data And Ideas Meet

2 November 2017

When The “Pope” Tweets, Data And Ideas Meet

Creativity in advertising has long gone beyond ads and TV commercials. These days, the advertising industry is using data to find smart new ideas to appeal to consumers. 

When Steven Spielberg shot Minority Report in 2002, he consulted a group of futurologists. He tasked them with developing scenarios for what information technology, city planning and robotics might look like by 2054. For the communications industry, one scene from the movie was particularly exciting: Tom Cruise walks through the city, and all the surrounding billboards show him messages only relevant to him at that moment.

Spielberg was ahead of his time

We haven’t quite yet reached this level of sophistication in advertising, but we are heading in the right direction. Not long ago, creativity in advertising meant the fantastic realization of a film or a poster. Today, advertising calls not only for mastering the rapidly developing technological possibilities but also for using them intelligently and creatively. For this, “Big Data” are the magic words. Because every Internet user leaves digital traces — voluntarily or not — advertisers can extrapolate what interests us.  

Unfortunately, digital advertising still generally works like this: A man orders several square meters of turf online. He is then inundated by ads for more turf, even though he is unlikely to order any more, now that his backyard is covered.  

The question we must be able to answer as communications professionals is, how can I get someone interested at the right moment with a compelling message? And that is where creativity comes in. It goes without saying that flooding a customer with ads is just as bad as burying him in junk mail.

A recent example of ingenuity in advertising came from France, where publicists for the TV series “The Young Pope,” cleverly used the social media habits of the show’s target audience to disseminate ads. The series, starring Jude Law as an unconventional, chain-smoking pontiff, already has an unusual premise. To attract more viewers, the show reacted to fans’ social media posts with quotes from the Bible. The sender? The young pope himself, a.k.a. Jude Law.

It was particularly effective because the comments were posted in real time — regardless of whether the potential viewer was worked up about a bad call at a soccer match or had just posted a picture of her pizza. The young pope immediately countered with a sometimes biting, but nevertheless real verse from the Holy Scriptures. And the message went out to millions of people, not just a select few. Technology, or more precisely artificial intelligence, makes this possible. But technology itself does not produce ideas.


This has to change. It is no secret that no one likes to do brand communications and the attention of potential customers is very valuable. Those who can read data correctly and then deliver amusing, exciting, or useful content will be successful. Spielberg and his team of futurologists already knew this in 2002. Actions speak louder than words; it’s time to stop behaving like teenagers. In other words: Let’s develop new ideas using data!

All rights reserved: Die Welt/Worldcrunch By Britta Poetzsch

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