Oscar predictions: what's the right tool for the job?

This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nominated 10 movies, an unusually large number, for Best Picture.

This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nominated 10 movies, an unusually large number, for Best Picture. The data in the infographic below suggests that predicting a winner is anything but clear. My colleagues, a group of well-versed movie goers, have collectively chosen “The King's Speech” to win. But because “Black Swan” is favored by the Twitterverse, it begs a question: how can you know if the data you've gathered in preparation for or in response to a campaign is truly accurate? 

The Secret Sauce

Many analytics tools use numbers for absolute prophecies, which is all well and good for conversations that occur between machines. But people make decisions based on facts and emotions; analyzing that combination is the “secret sauce” in any holistic evaluation.

For example, take Watson, the computerized “Jeopardy” champion; it's proof of how well artificial intelligence can compete with the human mind.  But factual accuracy alone doesn't equal strategy. Could Watson have been trusted to craft the experience for, say, the successful Darth Vader Volkswagen campaign? Would it have understood the social relevancy, the hilarity or the charm of a child's belief in his own magical powers? 

What's Really Credible?

The data, on its own, suggests that James Franco will be this year's winner. But when you weigh public sentiment, story response, and stats together, Colin Firth seems the more likely candidate. Arriving at definite answers is complicated. But while data itself can't forecast human opinions, if you compose the right questions and carefully mine the conversations while you compile the numbers, the voices — and sometimes the answers — are clearer.

It Takes Two: Machine + Man

In 2010, WE twendz pro™ service mined Twitter to pick “Hurt Locker” as the Best Picture winner. But software alone didn't get the job done. What made those results relevant and accurate is what powers the communications industry: campaigns earn their ROI only when organizations bring both tools and experiential insight to what their customers really want.

Kent Hollenbeck is an SVP at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.

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