Oct 29, 2019

Data vs. Creativity - can you have both?

Marketers have always aspired to deliver the right message, to the right consumer, at the right time - can data and creativity work together to achieve this?

  • In the past, creative agencies were the ones to find the message, and media agencies found the right time.
  • Now that marketers are taking more control over campaigns, they are looking to align data and creativity.
  • Data has been an essential cog in marketing for many years, and now that it is sought out by so many brands to help deliver the best customer experience, where does creativity come into the mix?

“Data is a must-have, a hygiene factor in business today. Creativity is the differentiating factor that moves the people data has helped reach. Data informs the creative and media strategy without which we will be shooting in the dark.” Ted Lim, chief creative officer of Dentsu APAC.

A clinical trial with 100 people is better and more reliable than one with 50? So, surely one with 1,000 participants must be better? Previously, it was assumed that this same principle could be applied to marketing but, developments show that this is not quite the case. Data no longer just focuses on quantity. When used alongside creativity, quality is the sole focus.

“Data tells us where the customer is. Media gets us there. [...] Creativity is a competitive advantage that moves people and business.” Ted Lim, chief creative officer of Dentsu APAC.

Marketers now have access to technology that will allow them to explore the way data-driven creative can strengthen the effectiveness of their campaigns while encouraging creativity

Dynamic creative optimisation:

DCO was a concept that only larger brands and agencies used, but now it provides an opportunity for marketers that are more creative-minded, to harness the data they have been told is crucial to a campaign’s success. It is safe to say that generally speaking, DCO has been shown to improve ROI but it still needs work.

Through DCO’s success, there has been a lot of investment and focus placed on this concept, meaning that there have been times when the creative message has been lost and as a result, a campaign’s performance has suffered. To avoid this, marketers must look to why DCO was first created. To deliver impactful, relevant messages, at the right time to the right consumer.

“A few years ago, data was only used for marketing; now its unlocked - it’s everywhere. Data is connected to people and culture, so if brands and creatives can utilise data in the right way, we can create not only activations, but a new service, new experience, or a new culture.” Yasuharu Sasaki, head of digital creative at Dentsu Inc.,

Data protection laws and consumer trust:

Data needs to be used transparently, other brands risk losing the trust they have worked to build with their consumers. The key is to use creativity to help unlock ethically sourced data, as stated by Sasaki, “People don’t trust brands”. Brands have many methods to gain access to data about their consumers, however, if they were to ensure this was done with complete honesty, they will find that their consumers will be more willing to provide data knowing how it will be used and that it will better their experience. 

The topic of data has sent red flags to brands in the past, but now that conversation surrounding data has developed, it now offers quality and valuable outcomes. The current state of marketing is described by JJ Eastwood, managing director for Carousell as the following:

“Companies are drowning in data but still dying of thirst.”

While the use of data is on the rise, the new depth of data protection laws means that there are some obstacles brands must overcome to harness the most valuable of the array of data available. In the past, the issue was, ‘Where can we find more data?’ and today this has shifted. The question that remains is, ‘How do we make sense of this data and how can we use this to drive the brand experience?

For brands, the key to working with data protection laws is to be proactive and put the consumer first. To succeed, brands must strive towards using data with a ‘single customer view’ approach, meaning that the advertising they create is directly relevant to the consumer. This not only provides its target audience with value, but the data they retrieve is also valuable to the brand. By setting this as a goal, brands will gradually learn more about data and invest more time and money towards it, so that eventually, this goal will become a reality.

Furthermore, data will allow brands to eliminate certain creative options, but this can only be done if the correct questions are asked. While data can guide brands to the best choice for their target audience, creative thinking can draw together different ideas that at first, do not appear to belong together. Without creativity, marketers will struggle to ensure content can move and resonate with an audience.

Does more data mean less risk?

An example of how data can potentially lessen the risk of the creative process is Netflix’s development of the show, ‘House of Cards’. Netflix invested millions knowing that the show would be successful before it aired because the algorithms analysed indicated this, which is partly due to the success of the original show.

This kind of ‘de-risk’ approach can be profitable, but there is a risk of the creative work becoming increasingly recycled and self-referential as it will be based largely on what the brand’s target audience has already stated they like.

Even though reducing risk is great for short-term targets, to an extent, it can close a window of opportunity, there is a possibility that brands will limit their level of creativity. Netflix are not the only ones to do this, it can be seen in the repetitive nature of pop music and endless film remakes. To promote genuine new content takes courage, and to a degree, a level of stubbornness. While the data gathered at first might not be positive, there must be confidence in the creative to uplift it.

The increased use of data by marketers should not present a challenge to creativity on the whole. The challenge it can create, is the extent of how genuinely creative and original marketing needs to be, when data can provide the answers for exactly what a target audience desires? The answer lies in a brand’s ability to creatively keep an audience engaged, despite already knowing what they like, without feeding them the same content. In sum, data is necessary to reach the right audience at the right time, it is necessary to personally tailor the consumer journey, but creativity ensures it resonates, moves, and engages that audience.