‘There’s a myth that data kills creativity’: CMOs on technology, diversity and creativity

Joe Oh (left) moderates panel with four top chief marketers at 3% Movement Minicon in Los Angeles

The confluence of technology, data and creativity and its impact on the work is a topic that continues to polarize. There are myths, realities and everything in-between and was part of the discussion at the 3% Movement Minicon, held at Deutsch’s new Steelhead space in Los Angeles, focusing on how technology intersects with diversity and creativity.

Joe Oh, president and chief executive officer of FCB West, along with four senior brand marketers from technology, finance and QSR, shared how creativity and technology appear to follow a steady thread of enabling a wide range of success.

To Lisa Stone, chief executive of Ellevest, a company that looks to close the gender investing gap, the data tells the front-line story of the differences between men and women — and especially women of color — as it relates to investment. Where Stone, a former co-founder of the successful BlogHer platform, sees the acceleration of success at Ellevest is in an area long lauded for effectiveness.

“Creativity in the age of technology is gorgeous storytelling,” she said. “We’ve had to unpack the myths about women and money with data and break it down into normal English — what’s actually happened with women and money.”

With that in mind, Stone leveraged Ellevest’s co-founder and chief executive, Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive at Bank of America for a series of videos. Additionally, using technology, she saw a relatable, yet sobering opportunity to connect.

“We are much more likely, whether you’re in your 50s or a millennial, to have sex with someone long before you ever talk about what’s in your wallet or in theirs,” she said. “On Instagram, we had a Post-it note [saying]: ‘Dear person who’s seen me naked, maybe it’s time to talk about money.’ We couldn’t get [our] story out through traditional advertising.”

Technology isn’t the creativity killer

Ann Lewnes, Adobe’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, believes that “technology is probably the best thing to ever happen to creatives,” pointing to the sharing economy, especially with Adobe’s Behance platform where talent, especially young talent, can get noticed and sell their work. Additionally, in her view, data, a sometimes polarizing word in creative circles, is critical as well.

“I think there’s a myth that data kills creativity,” she said. “I haven’t met a creative that doesn’t want to know the impact of their work. If you’re able to share how creative is being perceived and get feedback, [that can] make it better.”

Heidi Arkinstall, chief executive officer at Logitech, agreed, noting how her children use a wide range of creative technology — from Legos for her youngest to Adobe products for her oldest — that levels the playing field, democratizing creativity.

“People [can] express their creativity in ways that it would have taken ten years, or they wouldn’t have had access,” she noted. “I don’t think that it’s a creative killer at all, I think it’s a great enabler.”

Ideas and stories matter first

For her part, Marisa Thalberg, chief marketing officer of Taco Bell, has a unique perspective on how creativity and technology merge — less about the actual nuts and bolts of the technology itself, but how it can make an impact on people especially related to the relationship between culture and consumers, long a place that the brand has thrived.

“[Creativity] is such an amorphous, subjective thing,” she said. “But I think it matters because in an age of technology, we talking about something that is so fundamental to human needs, humanity and our desire to be touched in some way. No big insight here, but our world has become very complicated and filled with input.”

Going back to Stone’s earlier point around storytelling, Thalberg believes that an idea is crucial and trumps any conversations that need to solve issues around technology. In fact, looking at Taco Bell’s track record, some of their key initiatives, including their flagship restaurant in Las Vegas, complete with weddings, came from insights that the brand found interesting and compelling.

“If you start with ‘I have to solve for AI’ or ‘I have to solve for AR,’ then you’re checking a box,” said Thalberg. “I don’t think that’s where ideas come from. When I think of some of the things that people have helped bring to life with me for Taco Bell, it always started with some glimpse of human behavior we may have picked up on.”

The subject of diversity and how it relates to creativity steered the conversation in a different direction, but one still tied to how it relates to technology and storytelling.

“When you have diverse perspectives and viewpoints, you are open to more things,” said Thalberg, also the founder of Executive Moms, adding that the people sitting in offices trying to make decisions about how to connect with all different kinds of people all look and think the same, and have similar upbringings.

“How can that possibly be the right way to do great storytelling and to think about what inspires us and to do great work?” she asked. “So, for me, that ultimately is what we hope is in our collective shared interest, and you find the right talent in this business and you push a little extra harder when you look around and realize maybe there aren't as many different representative viewpoints.”

Read unvarnished opinion from the 3% Movement's Jenny Bergman, on dealing with burnout.

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