This Week’s Burning Question: Big Data vs. Creative


One CEO recently remarked that data is the new media. But some say Big Data’s rise to prominence has come at the expense of creative. What is the right recipe for a successful marriage of these two families?

Here’s what industry leaders had to say:

“The answer is: That CEO is wrong. Plain old dead wrong. Audiences certainly have a place – as does creative, as does inventory.  Any one without the other two leaves a marketer exposed to inefficiency. In fact, we just delivered a presentation to a top retailer around this.

  1. “Their Audience based targeting ‘appeared’ to be super-efficient, with great CPAs and conversion rates.
  2. “Because of this, they were shifting budget from ‘Inventory’ strategies toward ‘Audience’ strategies.  So much so, the ‘Audience’ strategy reached 50% of their entire budget.
  3. “But gross sales weren’t changing. It turns out that the ‘Inventory’ initiatives were creating all of the new demand and the ‘Audience’ strategies were just the last ads that people saw. When they changed their strategy to have both work together, the combination had a 60% improvement in overall sales.
  4. “The irony of that: Creative was largely ignored.  Most of the targeting done was to a particular segment of a male demographic.  They were totally ignoring the fact that almost two-thirds of the sales were coming from women with a basket size 20% higher than the men. Improve your creative and realize a 20% revenue lift almost instantly.

“Beware of CEO’s delivering absolutes, platitudes, silver bullets or ‘magic algorithms.’” — David Jakubowski, Aggregate Knowledge CEO.

“Media has traditionally been viewed as the delivery mechanism for a message, and the message was the key element of speaking to a consumer.  In today’s marketplace we have progressed to the stage of understanding more about who our customer is, and that understanding is fueled by data.  The integration of that data into a marketing effort means that your creative message can be customized based on what you know as well as the creative message itself.  Both the media and the creative become refined as a result of the integration of data, driving measurable increases in both performance (which is tied to creative) and media (which is tied to efficiency).  Data is not the new media, nor is it the new creative.  It represents a subtle paradigm shift for both as they head into the direction of customized customer engagement.” – Cory Treffiletti, Senior Vice President, Marketing at BlueKai.

“I disagree that ‘data is the new media.’ They are both essential in driving campaign results. However I do agree that there has been a disproportionate focus on data versus creative over the past few years, with the result being a display market that is flooded with standard units that are increasingly difficult to drive performance with, regardless of the amount of data applied. The right recipe is:

  1. “A media environment that gives a an advertiser’s message both the opportunity to be viewed and an experience that enhances the brand experience;
  2. “The application of data to determine the optimal ad to serve based on audience, context, location and any other applicable data points;
  3. “Creative that stands out, is engaging and able to leverage data where possible for an optimal experience. 3rd party intender data was a start, but more and more interesting datasets are coming to market that can optimize not just the ad but the messaging within the ad.

“Digital at its best utilizes the right intersection of media, creative and technology. Data is but one part of the broader technology piece, albeit a very important one.” — Eric Franchi, Co-Founder, Undertone.

“The creativity has moved from clever copy to being creative on how you engage your customers. The best Brands and CMOs use data to decide more granular customer segments, then use different data sources to creatively pull together insights on what customers want and how they can benefit from new programs and apps. Helping them with a specific problem or interest creatively is far more successful than creative ads and copy.” — Pete Krainik, Founder and CEO, The CMO Club.

“Spending significant resources and money to ‘find’ the right people using data does you absolutely no good if the creative isn’t relevant and in context. Here is a good quote from a friend of mine at a creative agency – Michael Lowenstern, Managing Director of Digital Advertising from R/GA: ‘Media and creative must be briefed together, they need to establish common KPIs (which is often easier said than done), and they need to plan together. Common insights, common goals, and the proper technological ‘glue’ that holds the media and creative elements together, are what make effective campaigns.’” – Rob Gatto, President, Aggregate Knowledge.

“It’s a balancing act, but one that favors brands strong in both creative and measurement. For instance, I strongly recommend A/B testing of headlines, copy, imagery, and calls-to-action in both media messages and your online presence. The test provides the data and shows what works. But creative leads the development of those messages. Notice how effectively Google has updated its creative and design across all its product lines while also continuing to aggressively test various ideas in the marketplace. Whereas they once famously tested 41 shades of blue to see what led consumers to click more often, they’re now conducting a still-large number of tests, but based on stronger designs from the outset. The lesson is that it’s far better for an organization to invest in both strong creative teams and a strong testing culture to ensure that its creative resonates with customers than solely to rely on “gut feel” or, worse, terrible creative in its tests.” — Tim Peter, Founder, Tim Peter & Associates.


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