George Clooney. Cate Blanchett. Beyoncé. Lady Gaga. Brad Pitt. Tom Hanks. What do these artists have in common? Each of them, among others, in addition to a roster of professional athletes, is represented by Creative Artists Agency (CAA), a global entertainment and sports agency co-founded in 1975. CAA brings extensive experience to the clients and communities it serves in the fields of filmed, interactive, and live entertainment, sports, digital media, sponsorship, endorsements, media finance, investment banking, venture funding, trademark licensing, philanthropy, and more.
The worlds of entertainment and sports would seem to be the natural domains of creativity, artistry, athleticism, and intuition. Data, analytics, and AI might seem unnatural in this setting. This assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. André Vargas, an eleven-year veteran of CAA, currently serves as its Chief Data Officer, a role he has held for over three years. In his role as CDO at CAA, Vargas is responsible for deploying data, analytics, and AI to champion the artists and talent represented by CAA.
Describing the CDO role at CAA, Vargas comments, “At CAA, data and analytics is not just a technology initiative, but a business and culture initiative with technology components. It is also human-centric, with great leadership and support from the top of the organization. They understand that adoption and change take a long time and require lots of support and resilience. Treat it as an investment, with patience, and the benefits are clear.”
As Vargas explains, the company can supercharge its work for clients through data and analytics. One goal of CAA is to secure the best possible deals, under the best possible business terms, for the artists, athletes, and brands the firm represents. By integrating data and analytics into what is inherently a people business predicated upon relationships and trust, CAA can ensure against what Vargas calls “information asymmetry,” a historical imbalance between the data focus of the buying community versus that of those who represent talent.
CAA collects data from diverse sources, including third parties that track the performance of shows on platforms including Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Spotify. This helps quantify audience interest and correlate that to the value of artists’ work. CAA agents are then best positioned to secure the very best deals for its clients. Having good data empowers the agent. If the 1996 film Jerry McGuire was famous for the phrase “Show me the money!”, in today’s Hollywood, the new mantra might be “Show me the data!”
Vargas is excited about deploying data in support of the entertainment industry, commenting that in his current role he has “never had more fun working with data.” He notes that having good data in your quiver is necessary when it comes to matching clients with brand opportunities, analyzing audience engagement and digital presence, aggregating box office data, and beyond. In the instance of product endorsements, data is vital to understanding target audiences, as measured by quantitative and qualitative metrics including social media followers and preferences, purchase behaviors, and brand association. This knowledge enables brands to ensure authenticity, which is achieved when a celebrity is identifiable with and personifies the product that is being endorsed. Data is constantly being analyzed and monitored to understand what audiences want.
Vargas observes how in the arts and talent representation business, the term AI is often uniquely approached by his team as “Augmented Intuition,” rather than its more common identification as “Artificial Intelligence.” This is because in the talent representation business, data is commonly used to augment human judgement and intuition. Data is used to aid in the business process and to make agents more informed and better prepared to serve the talent that they represent. Vargas describes this approach to data as “human-centric”. Referencing another use case, he cites how data can be used to optimize touring itineraries of popular artists and bands by ensuring that clients are playing in cities and venues that correspond most strongly with their fan base as measured by data.
Having good data is vital when it comes to making the best possible business deal on behalf of a client and negotiating compensation. This is accomplished by gathering and analyzing extensive sources of public and private data. Vargas notes that the best agents are well-prepared and come equipped with the data needed to make their case and represent the best interests of their clients. Explaining that it is a “zero sum game,” Vargas states that each artist is unique, and that it is the job of an agent to make the case that they serve their client better than anyone else. Having good data represents a “huge competitive advantage” and differentiator when it comes time to securing the best deal for the clients of CAA.
Data has been used from the outset at CAA to support highly measurable business outcomes – drive sales, satisfy clients, win deals, generate revenue, deliver business value. Having been well-embedded within its outward-facing client activities, CAA is now looking at using data to manage the core business and improve operational efficiencies. What started as a data strategy predicated on “data for agents” has evolved into a companywide effort focused on “data for managing business.” With unwavering support from members of its leadership, the agency is undertaking a sustained effort to become data-driven in all aspects of the firm and its operations.
Vargas understands that becoming data-driven is both a journey and a process for any organization. As an example of integrating data in a practical and effective way, he describes what he calls the establishment of “Tiny Habits,” a routine drop-in by Vargas or experts on his team in staff meetings to teach agents quick, actionable data tips that can enhance sales opportunities, always under five minutes. Vargas concludes, “We have always viewed data and analytics as a business solution, which uses technology. We want our agents and executives to continually ask the question, ‘Is data in the room?’”
CAA’s commitment to using data and analytics in all aspects of its business has been extended beyond its walls to support the communities that CAA serves, especially when impactful decisions are being made by key industry players regarding diversity, inclusion, and representation. The CAA Motion Picture Cast Diversity Index, published in 2017, found that films across all budget ranges brought in more money when casts were more diverse. Similar results were proven in its landmark TV Diversity Study in 2020, which sent a clear message that audience demand for diverse shows has grown exponentially.
In a world of storytelling, Creative Artists Agency is setting the stage by using data, analytics, and “Augmented Intuition” each and every day to service its clients. In doing so, CAA is empowering the artists, athletes, and brands it represents to shape the culture of our times and inspire the world.
originally posted on forbes.com by Randy Bean
About Author: Randy Bean is the author of Fail Fast, Learn Faster: Lessons in Data-Driven Leadership in an Age of Disruption, Big Data, and AI, and a contributor to Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and MIT Sloan Management Review. He was Founder and CEO of NewVantage Partners, a strategic advisory firm which he founded in 2001 and which was acquired by Paris-based global consultancy Wavestone. He now serves as Innovation Fellow, Data Strategy at Wavestone. You can follow him on LinkedIn.