Data Humanisation: Digital makes ‘data vs. creativity’ redundant

There’s a lot of noise in the media about data versus creativity, and John Hegarty’s comments at Cannes about the ‘digital terrorist’ made me laugh too. It reminded me of myself, back in the late 90s as a ‘digital warrior’ stalking Hoxton Square armed with a laptop evangelising digital.

But Mr Hegarty’s main point was that “at the heart of brands is a thing called good storytelling”.

This is true and got a little lost what with the terrorist reference. Digital delivers data and, if handled correctly, provides the insight to fuel a good story. Digital makes data versus creativity redundant.

Personally, I have seen great ideas killed off before ever getting in front of clients by spurious data and poorly executed research. Others have been ‘reverse rationalised’ or validated through data. It is also true to say that I’ve seen great creativity inspired by insight drawn from data.

The data versus creativity argument surely should be about maximising performance? We maximise performance by getting the targeting right and the message relevant. As with the adoption of any new channels, there is an early adopter land grab to figure out ‘how to get it to work’, standards are low and there is little competition. As the channel matures we need to ensure that we are maximising performance.

These days, maximising performance invariably means getting the mix of reach and relevance right. It raises questions like: Do we do one big campaign for everyone? Do we focus on three, 10 or 100 key audience groups? What are the implications on cost and return of producing creative for many different audience groups?

The traditional split of responsibility for advertising and marketing is that media planning and buying agencies focus on the reach (large or small audience groups identifiable through available data and targeted through available media inventory), while creative agencies focus on the message or relevance of the work.

This is now a lot messier with creative agencies opening data departments and media agencies much more involved in creative to develop integrated campaigns. The lines are blurring and it is not implausible to imagine a time when media and creative agencies become one and the same thing.

It’s interesting to read in the press about Omnicom possibly brining many types of agencies together at least under one roof if not one P&L in 2015. This can only help agencies learn to work better together to deliver value for clients.

Creatives supported by great data and planning can only lead to more effective work, which in turn has got to mean better creative.

Mark Iremonger, chief strategy officer, iCrossing

Tel: +44 2078 212 300




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