Can the data-led creative please stand up?

Jason Dooris

  • CEO and founder, Atomic 212
Jason Dooris is the CEO and founder of growing Atomic 212, Australia's fastest growing media and marketing agency on the BRW 2014 list. Over the past 20 years, Jason has held a variety of senior local and global industry positions including CEO MediaCom UK, deputy CEO MediaCom Europe, GM Saatchi & Saatchi NZ, GM Ogilvy & Mather Australia, GM Dentsu Aegis Australia and consulting practice director, Deloitte Asia. His vertical experience covers most categories with a particular focus on retail, automotive and FMCG.

The data land grab is full steam ahead. Media agencies, brands and tech players are all scrambling over one another to develop data and insights capabilities and to own the space.

But here’s the kicker: As consumers fragment across channels, and our ability to reach them becomes more advanced than ever, our creative messaging often remains entrenched in a traditional advertising model.

Take a look at programmatic buying, the pinnacle of data-led performance advertising. The level of targeting we can achieve is outstanding – one-to-one marketing on a truly mass level. This is data at its best, and competencies are constantly improving.

But by and large, we are seeing the same creative messaging being rolled out across the board, rather than targeting our creative to each individual consumer. The obvious hurdles here are cost and changing the creative mindset. Creative agencies are hardwired towards the brand ad. While I’m not suggesting this type of advertising has lost its importance (although even the hallowed brand ad needs a major rethink in a data-driven landscape), we do need to start thinking about highly targeted creative messaging as well.

Brands need content that is tailored to every media environment in a highly fragmented world if they wish to truly get the biggest bang for their data buck. It’s not just about finding the right consumer, but about hitting them with the right message.

But how do we achieve such a feat? Our studies show that even though we can target individual consumers more effectively than ever before, it is 138 per cent more expensive to reach a consumer today than it was 10 years ago, precisely because there are now so many more places we have to look. You need more staff, more data, more creative. And then I come along and call for even greater change.

It’s a challenge, but it’s one that agencies simply must tackle, lest we be pushed to the fringes of the marketing game. One solution is automated creative, the amalgamation of creative and technology, which the best cloud marketing and software providers are developing with phenomenal efficiency and effectiveness.

One can’t help but be impressed by Adobe, a company with a creative mindset which acquired data business, Omniture, in 2009 and hasn’t looked back. A decade ago, if you were to say that a company like Adobe, which provided Photoshop to design studios, would be disrupting the core of the advertising business, you would have been laughed out of the room. Now it is one of the most insightful players in the data advertising game. Adobe knows it’s not an either/or scenario. It’s about data and creativity.

Of course, it’s not just about changing the creative mindset across the adaptive display space. We need to think differently across the board. For example, with all the insights data is generating in programmatic video, why are brands simply converting their television ads into YouTube pre-rolls, when we know audiences consume television and online video in very different ways?

Even in the traditional space, data is revealing just how differently audiences are now consuming television content, focusing on second and third screens during the ad breaks. Wouldn’t it make sense to adapt our television messaging, perhaps using more audio devices like jingles to capture the attention of consumers whose visual attention is diverted elsewhere?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. We are in the process of a data revolution. But if we really want to squeeze the best value from data, we need a creative revolution to go with it.

The creative space is already going through seismic changes, with content marketing and native advertising becoming the new norm, but traditional creative advertising models still have a surprisingly firm grip, in the face of overwhelming evidence that further change is needed.

It seems strange that as media agencies claim their stake over the data space, the gulf between media and creative agencies is arguably larger than ever before. This is one reason why here at Atomic 212 we’ve adopted a full service mindset. But it certainly doesn’t mean there’s no longer a place for the creative. Instead, marcomms partners should be figuring out ways to bring all our creative, media, data and technology learnings together.

Maybe the answer is to rally all partners around central KPIs based on sales. If we are all pulling in the same direction, and if we are all thinking about the best messages in the most appropriate media environments, that’s when great things will happen.

This is a wonderful and exciting opportunity. Let’s embrace it.

Tags: creative, data-driven marketing, agency relationships

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