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The Sweet Science of Certainty

In his keynote for the virtual 2020 Cannes Lions Festival, NYU professor and popular futurist Scott Galloway proclaimed that the COVID-19 pandemic had transformed business by “decades in days.”

In the estimation of Galloway (whose content is must-see, by the way), any consumer behavior or business trend that was developing in 2020 had been Thanos-snapped 10 years into the future and is now a “here-to-stay” business reality (think Ecommerce, virtual offices, and the sharing economy).

From an advertising standpoint, Galloway might have been underselling the premise.

Consumers now demand to be met at a specific point of engagement with value-creating benefits, highly authentic messaging, and the ability to fulfill a need instantaneously. Advertisers who once “boiled the ocean” now have to adopt a sharpshooter’s mantra of “aim small, miss small.” And the best way to achieve that is through better, more sophisticated data analysis, insights, targeting, and optimization.

(Tom Conti, CEO, SweetScience)

At the beginning of the 2010s, the integration of data – big and small – in advertising was emerging but limited. Traditional brand agencies provided the creative and then measured its performance against typically ambiguous metrics. The notion of data informing creative – and by extension media, technology and product strategies – was hampered by very rigid silos.

During my days with Grey Group at that time, it became clear that breaking those silos was simply untenable, because of either a “not-invented-here” mentality or a lack of processes that would enable the seamless integration of a new suite of data, tools, and technologies into the creative process. Thus, in 2016 SweetScience was born, the name holding a significance beyond just a lifetime love of the squared circle.

With a blank canvas we set out to build a technology-forward, data-centric agency that would be creatively inspired in all disciplines through better audience and market insights while being more accountable to campaign performance metrics. It would be “Mad Men” meets “Moneyball.” We would create the “Science of Certainty.”

It’s a philosophy and a process shared by everyone on the SweetScience team – resulting in a culture of open-field collaboration between strategy, creative, media, technology, and analytics. It removes many of the risks clients often associate with marketing spend and has delivered big results, solving complex marketing challenges for category leaders like Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Becton Dickinson, and DC Lottery to emerging organizations like TherapeuticsMD and City Distilling.

It’s the reason we were ranked among the Inc. 500 as one of America’s fastest growing privately held companies in 2019 (an accomplishment that we repeated in 2020). Our success has required the visioning and development of new datamining platforms and analytics dashboards, powered by talent with expertise in data analysis, Ecommerce and social commerce, activation marketing, and a passionate entrepreneurial desire to create something new. The walk through the methodologies, platforms, and proofs of concept was slow and deliberate, but at the end of the journey was a new light.

SweetScience is an agency designed for 2030 but is exactly what is needed today – an agency with deeper understanding of consumer attitudes and behaviors resulting in radically relevant creative with more authentic expressions of their needs, wants, and desires; purchase decision journey mapping that precisely identifies the points of greatest marketing leverage; and a transparent accountability to campaign performance with insights that clearly demonstrate which parts of money spent result in the greatest return on investment.

Here’s just one example. An addiction treatment organization with a single facility in the Midwest sought to expand. Through deep analysis of their clinical outcomes against national averages we identified that their unique treatment method for opioid addiction was resulting in patient recovery outcomes that were four times higher than the national average. With this insight we repositioned the organization as an opioid addiction treatment specialist and we branded their unique treatment method.

Perhaps more importantly we analyzed the facility’s admissions data with other syndicated datasets through our proprietary engines and were able to understand:

  • The geographic composition of opioid prescription rates by doctor according to zip codes across the country

  • The distribution of insurance claims for opioid treatment

  • The density of addiction treatment facilities by DMA

With these hyperlocal metrics we identified target markets for expansion down to the street level where new treatment facilities should be located.

As a result, the organization expanded from that single Midwest treatment center to eighteen facilities in five states in just over two years, all similarly positioned for success by the data-supported creative hitting target markets with the opportunity to help those with the greatest need.

If necessity is the mother of invention or innovation, then the pandemic was that life-changing event that forces a kid to grow up faster than expected. We didn’t launch SweetScience in 2016 prepared to lead our clients through one, but we did, and with the Sweet Science of Certainty we’re positioned to build their future and help them capitalize on “decades in days” change.

-Tom Conti, CEO


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