Creativity Agency

Will technology and data let us remove doubt from creativity?

By Karl Stones | Executive creative director



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June 28, 2022 | 6 min read

The ad industry keeps hold of some pretty old antagonisms: media v creative; date v pure inspiration. But what if they don't need to be in competition? For The Drum's Creativity in Focus Deep Dive, Karl Stones, executive creative director at integrated agency Jaywing, tells us that there’s never been a better time to embrace the combined power of creativity, data, and tech.

25 years ago adland life was much simpler. Coming up with great creative ideas wasn’t difficult and we had fewer channels on which we wanted that creative to land well. Our biggest obstacle was convincing clients that an idea was the right direction.

But when you did get a big idea through, the hard work really began.

Jaywing encourages marketers to rid themselves of doubt and hesitation in pursuit of better creativity.

Jaywing encourages marketers to rid themselves of doubt and hesitation in pursuit of better creativity.

Back then there was an often-fractured relationship between creative and media. Creative came up with ground-breaking ideas, then research companies brought you back down to earth: who wants to see a drumming gorilla? What do meerkats have to do with insurance?

You couldn’t even get too excited when a great creative idea and research did marry up: your idea was then squeezed into pre-allocated media-buy. I’m generalizing, but likely raising a few knowing smiles.

What would creativity be like if we removed doubt?

Today we're getting closer to answering that question with harmonized brand science unearthing brilliant insight-led propositions. We know which campaigns will work, how, why and when to land them.

Many of the jobs in the industry didn’t exist even five years ago, so neither did the conversations creatives have with all these intriguing new colleagues. The value added by strategists, media scientists, data scientists, and behavioral scientists are fuelling the creative solutions of tomorrow, bringing together diverse skillsets that, when working collaboratively, add conviction.

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Our approach has become Cartesian: like the philosopher Descartes, we start out doubting everything. When, when delivering, we chance nothing.

There are more industry analysis tools at our disposable now, too. I’ve found myself in an environment with proprietary software aimed at improving effectiveness and attribution which we can use to test campaigns before they even go live. It’s a marked departure from focus groups and the long campaign feedback cycles of the past. As creatives, we’re hard-wired to look for solutions that provoke a commercial and emotional response.

The closer we get, the more emotionally resonant we become

The award-winning 2009 documentary Art and Copy presented a nostalgic look at the industry and rounded up some of the most iconic campaigns (‘Just Do It’, ‘I Love New York’ and ‘Think Different’). Are we experiencing the next evolution of ‘Art and Data’?

For clients choosing from a smorgasbord of advertising, media science and brand solutions it isn’t easy, even if proving ROI is now simpler. Pressure to be active on all channels all the time can become overwhelming. Clients who are open to having their briefs challenged and injecting a balance of data science and dynamism into their strategy perform best.

What we’ve learned from colleagues who focus on zero-waste marketing and effectiveness, is that, when using data, we can challenge briefs with evidence for a stronger strategic creative solution. Some think data-powered marketing creates homogenized solutions and works against brand building. I find the opposite to be true: using data from the outset, testing solutions, and developing granular details about audiences allows teams to create work with deeper emotional resonance.

Data lets you ask intelligent questions about your audience’s responses; predictive modeling gives us a factual look at what will and will not work. That’s an immediate pointer on creating cut-through-the-noise campaigns.

Information is a source of strategic advantage. Whatever advances strategy advances creative. At the same time as pushing us to think harder and smarter about delivering meaningful brand platforms with built-in science-backed potential, data gives us the holy grail of metrics: knowing how creative will land.

Creativity can’t become homogenized by data because the ability to provoke a response is always going to be driven by a human desire to connect and we all connect with different things. Even artificial intelligence has empathy and the ability to read the room.

In conversations with behavioral researchers we’ve discussed 'affective computing': systems that can recognize, interpret, and simulate human affect. Some core components are fixation analysis, electroencephalograms (EEGs) and facial expression analysis. Affective computing will help prove the gut intuition and predicted response of customers, determining whether a campaign has had wow factor, or driven an impulse to purchase. More than this, it can also indicate how long a creative campaign endures for (essentially, its legacy).

It’s a brilliant time to be creative

Done right, creative and media powered by data and tech is both symbiotic and transformative. There are some utterly brilliant ideas out there that are memorable, beautifully executed and land as sweet as LeBron James’ signature 'tomahawk dunk'. Long may this continue.

To keep up to date with all our coverage head over to the Creativity in Focus hub.

Creativity Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

At Jaywing, we’ve made it our mission to help clients establish concrete foundations in a world of shifting sands. As a data-powered integrated agency, we bring together the best minds in data intelligence, creative engagement and channel performance to uncover unique insights that enable smarter outcomes. The result? Better performing, effective solutions that create certainty, maximise opportunity and eliminate chance.

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