There was — and to a certain extent still is — a tension between “big data” vs. creative siloism in the advertising industry. For many years, creative teams, who carried a lot of weight, were trained to be very skeptical and combative of anyone trying to apply hard numbers (i.e., data) to the more expressive, emotionally-based and subjective creative process, thinking the data — in the form of empirical evidence — would stifle or kill creativity.
The advertising industry is going through a dramatic mindset change, which challenges a paradigm the industry has held dear for years. However, I think this benefits both creative and data (analytical) teams. Rather than stifling “creative juices,” my belief is that data and analytics, which is everywhere and is not the anathema some creatives make it out to be, can serve as the catalyst of inspiration and help drive creativity. This inspiration, in turn, results in a winning campaign capable of propelling the brand towards its goals.
The time has come where creative departments needs to re-evaluate the relationship with their data-driven colleagues. They must change their “Trust me, I know what I’m doing” attitude and be more open to input (knowledge and intelligence) from them, and take a more progressive and collaborative approach. There is a need for creative to embrace the change and take a whole-brained approach in their thinking and capitalize on the era of empowerment, openness and collaboration, and access to data which is no longer a nice to have, but rather a need to have.
The fact is that the two approaches should not be mutually exclusive, and agencies should marry data (and analytics and insight) with creative ingenuity. Data can provide significant solid factual and fundamental information, insight and give content and support to the overall direction (both prior, during and after the creative process and delivery) on what creative messages will resonate with an audience. This can then fuel a winning creative effort and campaigns that are in line with the wants and needs of the target customers and deliver distinct messages that better connect with multiple discrete sub-audiences on their terms, ultimately driving meaningful end results. Reaching your target audience online is more difficult than ever before.
Big data and analytics is one of the most valuable assets in communication these days, as it gives creatives more information on which to base their messages. It doesn’t hurt as long as there is a balance with intuition and creativity. Otherwise, too much focus on data can bog down creative teams and restrict their ability to freely create unique and effective stories within ads (i.e. paralyze good thinking and ideation).
Ultimately, it is about getting the most effective creative message in front of the right person at this right time, which is the ultimate promise of the billions invested in the ad ecosystem. And the convergence of data and creative allows you to develop effective and creative advertising messages that will motivate the desired behavior within your market audience.