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Five Questions With John Vanderploeg: The Important Role of Statistics & Data in a Creative Company

With a focus on providing more relevance to consumers and more effective solutions for clients, Leo Burnett has become an advocate for more data-driven creative.

John Vanderploeg, EVP, The Core, has been a member of the Chicago Chapter of the American Statistical Association since the ’90s, and a board member since 2001. This year, he chaired the association’s committee that selects the Statistical Advocate of the Year. The 2017 winner was Rayid Ghani, director of data science and public policy at the University of Chicago.

We sat down with Vanderploeg to talk about the role of statistics in our lives, and the relevance of data in client work. We also learn how the association, and this award in particular, link directly to John’s own day-to-day life at the office.

Why is this award significant to the industry? To you?
Becoming more data-driven has become a constant theme in our industry. Our clients are demanding that we bring data-driven insights forward in our briefs; marketing-supported consumer journeys require data to inform and support them; and all our work needs data to measure and optimize.

Statistics is at the core of using data more effectively. In an industry where decisions haven’t always been driven by data or statistics, it is important to recognize those who advocate for its use.

The American Statistical Association has been at the forefront of advocating for the use of statistics across industries. And so, the recently established national award for statistical advocacy has become a very distinguished honor for its recipients. In recent years, the award has been given to Steven Levitt (author of “Freakonomics”) and Avinash Kaushik (Google Ambassador).

As the chair of this year’s American Statistical Association’s Advocate of the Year Award, it has been a great honor to recognize Rayid Ghani, whose work with the Data Science for Social Good organization has directly impacted countless people around the globe. His organization has helped manage crime in inner cities, improve sanitary conditions in Africa, increase health detection success rates, and much more. Ghani’s ability to inspire others to join his organization and continue the work around the globe has been paramount to the organization’s success and impact.

What did it mean to you to be able to chair this committee?
Working with some of the top advocates in the field as part of the Advocate Award Committee was one of the most rewarding aspects of my career.

Being part of the Statistical Advocate selection committee has highlighted both the need for more statistical advocacy and the amazing impact it can have in many aspects of our lives.

How does this tie into your day-to-day work at The Core?
Statistical advocacy is a key aspect of The Core. Whether it is advocating for improved results from predictive modeling, using forecasting methodologies to successfully manage campaigns or implementing an effective testing methodology, The Core is constantly striving to bring data-driven approaches to our clients.

How does an agency like Leo Burnett advocate for a more data-driven approach to its creative products?
With a focus on providing more relevance to the consumer and more effective solutions for our clients, Leo Burnett has become an advocate for more data-driven creative. Quite often it starts with a hypothesis about consumer behavior and how our products – advertising or otherwise – can impact it. Next, we mine for data and then create insights to inform our approach. Lastly, after the creative is produced, we use test and learn methods to ensure our creative is working its hardest.

Does it help to have an advocate on the client side? What does a good collaboration look like with a client, when it comes to data?
Client collaboration is critical to developing more effective data-driven advertising. Quite often, we need approval from our clients to gain access to the data necessary to develop data-driven creative. When our clients see the benefit from collaborating with us end to end, everything from the briefing process to the measurement process is more data-driven, and therefore more measurable.

September 29, 2017


Leo Q+A