When consulting giant Deloitte Digital acquired creative agency Heat in February 2016, distress crept down Madison Ave.
It wasn’t the first acquisition of an agency by a consultancy, but it was the first “where the industry stood up and took notice,” according to Jay Pattisall, Forrester principal analyst covering advertising, media and digital marketing.
“It’s all my fault,” Heat CEO John Elder jokes during a trip to the agency’s New York office last Thursday, where Deloitte Digital employees are housed as well.
During that visit, Heat discussed life-after-acquisition and walked Ad Age through a demo of its most recent innovation that was created thanks to Deloitte Digital.
Heat AI is a new practice created by the agency that uses artificial intelligence to find trends and conversations on social media that are predicted to spike in popularity 72 hours before they peak, with a self-reported 70 percent accuracy rate. Armed with that information three days in advance, the agency says it can create social content around a trending topic (given it makes sense for the brand) and place it where those discussions are taking place as they take off.
Heat AI runs on technology originally developed by Deloitte Digital to assess business risk for companies. (A few government agencies have also used the technology to determine public-safety risk, says Elder).
Now, the creative shop has been testing the technology with certain clients but the agency will officially launch it at an event with Facebook at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity next week.
Jocelyn Lee, head of Heat AI, says that “the great thing” about being at a creative agency under Deloitte is that there is “all this great technology at our fingertips.”
That got her thinking. Why can’t Heat leverage that technology to fuel creative?
Having spent time on the planning and buying side at Digitas, Grey and FCB previously, Lee has a media background—and a pre-existing mindset of figuring out ways to use data and technology to drive better results.
“The media side has been really good at leveraging data and technology and AI to make planning and buying more efficient, impactful and effective,” Lee explains. “We feel that one of the things that’s slightly missing from it is the right messaging, the right emotionally resonating message and creative that really goes with this technology.”
Forrester's Pattisall agrees.
“What Deloitte Digital and Heat are doing is taking advantage of their available tech and data stacks in a way that most agencies have not yet achieved but are trying to,” Pattisall said.
He said “this should be a wake-up call” to independent and holding company-owned creative agencies: According to a recent R3 report, 96 percent of marketers believe tech is "integral" to achieving future business goals and have invested $100 million on solutions around that. Another 44 percent of marketers reported to R3 that they plan to increase those investments within the year.
Behind Heat AI
On the Heat AI platform, each brand gets its own profile. The tech trawls for trends and conversations that relate to the client's target consumers. Those trends, updated every 60 seconds, are displayed in different sized bubbles—the bigger the bubble, the more it’s being discussed at that moment. Hovering over the different trends shows how conversations around it are expected to grow over the next 72 hours. (Don’t count those smaller bubbles out.)
Last Thursday, Ad Age observed the platform’s profile of a shoe retail client, masked by the agency so as not to reveal any potential sensitive information. Jay-Z and Beyoncé were in there, represented by two small bubbles bobbing around inside a larger “game three” (of the NBA finals) bubble. (The platform had already identified that this client’s primary consumer is a sneakerhead who is also interested in sports and music, particularly hip-hop.)
The reason behind the bubbles: ESPN posted a video to Twitter during last Wednesday’s game that showed Jay-Z and Beyoncé sitting courtside. People apparently had taken note of Beyoncé looking annoyed by Nicole Curran, the wife of a Warriors owner, leaning over her to talk to Jay-Z. This social buzz prompted it to appear on the Heat AI platform on Thursday. It wasn’t until Friday, two days later, that the incident broke into mainstream awareness, with Jimmy Kimmel discussing it during last Friday's show.