POV

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24.02.20

Drive performance by marrying data and creativity

Roger Barr

Chief Digital Officer

Data and insight should provide a platform for creativity, not put constraints on our imagination and inventiveness.

  • Marketers who unite data and creativity grow their revenues at twice the average rate of S&P 500 companies

  • Real-time data should allow marketers to take creative risks and keep experimenting, gaining insights and building momentum

As long ago as 2013, Margaret Burke, Director of Brand at Three, told Marketing Week:

“If you use data to get an insight and that insight leads you to a great creative brief, that’s brilliant. If you’re using data in the way that a lot of clients and companies do — which is talking only about facts — I think that leads to pretty mediocre, undifferentiated briefs.”

- Margaret Burke, Director of Brand, Three

Data has moved on in leaps and bounds in seven years, with big data getting bigger and Artificial Intelligence (AI) growing more powerful. And the argument has continued to gather pace — is data stifling creativity, micro-managing and hyper-targeting the life out of original thinking?

In January 2019, Olay ran a spoof horror-themed ad promoting its skincare products, to tie in with the Super Bowl. Sound unlikely? The ad was rooted in Google and YouTube data that showed that Olay’s audience loves American football and horror movies. And roughly 47% of the game’s audience comprised female viewers. The resulting #KillerSkin campaign made the ad stand out and drove brand recall of 75%.

Olay’s work epitomises how data can enhance creativity.

Uniting data and creativity supercharges company growth

It also supports findings from a survey of more than 200 CMOs by McKinsey in 2018, which tracked the performance of their companies. The research discovered that marketers who are “integrators” (those who have united data and creativity) grow their revenues at twice the average rate of S&P 500 companies — at least 10% annually versus five per cent.

The left brain versus right brain argument is outmoded. Successful brands have realised that while the modern CMO — now responsible for business objectives as well as brand-building — must be data-savvy and armed with a certain amount of analytical capability, creativity remains as important as it ever was.

Indeed, LinkedIn data from 2019 shows that the soft skill companies most need is creativity. Yet the third most in-demand hard skill is analytical reasoning. Both are necessary, yet integration of the two is the biggest challenge.

Work the data — don’t let it work you

Data should provide a platform for creativity, yet the risk is that in an age of metrics and granular measurement, it constrains the imagination and stifles the inventiveness that only the human brain can conceive.

But access to real-time data should be liberating for marketers, giving them permission to keep tweaking and pushing boundaries, adjusting their ideas according to metrics. It is a licence to take risks, allowing brands to continually gain insights and build momentum.

Getting it right means filtering the deluge of data to use only what is needed to fulfil the objectives of the campaign. Tapping into only data and insights that are highly relevant to the brief is like oxygen to creativity, giving life to ideas that are brilliant yet focused, rooted in rationale.

Data alone is not the answer, and that is the trap some brands (and digital marketing agencies) fall into. Marrying the two so that data enables creativity is unquestionably a challenge, relying on not just the right processes and strategies but the right culture and mindset too.

Find a digital marketing agency where the left brain talks to the right

Achieving this strategic differentiator for clients has been an obsession at iCrossing for a number of years, with growth specialists and creatives working hand in glove to maximise the impact of campaigns. It is one of the things that makes us stand out from other digital marketing companies in London.

Perhaps David Ogilvy said it best: “Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well-informed, or your idea will be irrelevant.”

Talk to the digital specialists

No one wants mediocre. At iCrossing, we drive clients’ performance by applying a “whole brain” approach. Speak with Roger Barr, to find out how we can help you get creative and use data to discover the growth hiding in your blind spots.

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