Wunderman Thompson’s “Hack to the Future” team has been named one of three finalists of the 2021 I-COM Data Science vHackathon (Virtual Hackathon)—and we couldn’t be prouder!

I-COM is an industry association for marketing data science and its Data Science Hackathons present the opportunity for teams around the globe to compete in a 34-hour challenge, with the aim of solving marketing problems that make an impact on people’s lives. What’s incredible is that outcomes are drastically accelerated, speeding up results that would ordinarily take months of work to complete.

It’s a high-intensity, high-pressure test, and this year’s event was in uncharted territory. Although the I-COM Data Science Hackathon was founded a number of years ago, the 2021 Data Science vHackathon was the first to be held entirely remotely after the disruptions that the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in last year, including the need to cancel I-COM’s 2020 event.

In true Wunderman Thompson spirit—never deterred by challenging circumstances but inspired by opportunities to prove our creativity—we rose to the occasion. Our five-member team was spread out across the US and UK, in Seattle, Denver, Memphis, and London. Given the tight deadline, this meant that we had to practice some serious organizational skills to factor in the different time zones—and we did, thanks to a brilliant strategy devised by the team.

“Fortunately, although the circumstances were different this year, we were at an advantage since we’re well equipped and experienced at solving problems under pressure,” shares Alexander Liss who headed up Data Science and Analytics at Wunderman Thompson and acted as hack to the Future’s team mentor. “Wunderman Thompson has previously been named a finalist, so it’s a great feeling to build on that victory, even as we embraced a ‘new normal’.”

This year’s Data Science vHackathon was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson and was centered around the theme of smoking cessation. Teams were tasked with creating a detailed profile of UK-based people who want to quit smoking so that those specific audiences could be effectively addressed with messages on how Johnson & Johnson’s NICORETTE® products can offer them support during the process of quitting.

Within the 34-hour period, teams had to develop a data-driven behavior change model, including details on how they would identify smokers on their individual journeys and what behaviors they would aim to change to help people quit smoking. Teams were allowed to use tools and software of their choice, but had to use the datasets that were provided by Acxiom.

Our team applied a combination of behavioral science, data science, and marketing science to arrive at its proposed solution for creating healthy behavior change among the target audiences.

Deborah Wykes, Insight & Effectiveness Director at Wunderman Thompson and team captain for Hack to the Future explains: “We know that every smoker has different struggles in their journey to quit. We wanted to look beyond the usual reasons to quit smoking—such as having children or getting in shape—as we believe the majority of those audiences have already quit or need less help with quitting. We wanted to identify fresh, new audiences who could benefit from NICORETTE® and develop a new creative style to engage them and persuade them that quitting could benefit them too.”

Not only has Wunderman Thompson qualified as a finalist, but our creative concept will also be tested in market this fall. The timing couldn’t be better as more and more people are starting to pay close attention to their health.

“We’re really proud of the effort that we put in to this campaign, working seamlessly across disciplines and locations, plus, we had a lot of fun doing it, and the results speak for themselves,” Liss concludes.

Congrats to everyone involved!

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