Does Bambi make you cry or think about venison for dinner? Is Luke Skywalker a hero, a coward, or a disobedient son? 

Whatever you think – about anything – you’re not the only one. That’s what happens when you’re one of seven billion. There are a lot of other people just like you. 

Except for the fact there’s no one like you. You’re unique. Your DNA, your experiences, your environment have all combined to produce a singular being, unlike any other the world has ever seen.

This essential contradiction is at the heart of modern business. How to reach mass audiences, one individual at a time with messages that create emotional experiences – the prerequisite of consumer engagement.

This year Pixar Animation Studios Story Supervisor and Instructor Matthew Luhn and Quantcast CEO and Co-Founder Konrad Feldman will take to the Inspiration Stage and contrast Pixar’s ability to create a single message that connects with audiences of millions, with Quantcast’s expertise in delivering personally meaningful advertising to millions of individuals, simultaneously.

Having this conversation at Cannes is recognition that data is increasingly at the heart of creative industries. Today, in the most progressive companies, data already underpins planning, execution and learning. But disruptive companies are realising that data can and must also influence creative choices through its ability to turn ones and zeroes into human beings. 

Take the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December 2015 as an example. Ahead of its release Quantcast identified the digital habits of its fans, uncovering that each character has its own unique demographic of fans. Surprisingly, Darth Vader fans over index heavily for occupations within the Criminal Justice System, and Luke fans have the highest salaries – and it’s understanding unconventional characteristics like these that allows a brand to connect to its audiences in ways that show they understand them.

Whether it’s Pixar’s ability to isolate thousands of different human facial expressions and transfer them to the big screen to create a moment of lasting audience empathy, or Quantcast’s ability to identify an audience segment in emotional as well as empirical terms, data married to humanity is a sustained competitive advantage.

This article was first published in 2016 Cannes Daily paper. Available to view online here