​ It’s time to walk the walk and get creative about data

Jason Dooris

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.

Why do people still treat data and creativity as if they are two separate streams, running in parallel but never quite meeting?

Everyone talks about blending the two. But who is walking the walk? It’s ludicrous to think that data and creative teams still sit on separate floors, or that one is brought into the conversation earlier or later than the other. One is just as important as the other.

It’s like going on a date. Data gets you in front of potential suitors. But creativity gets you invited upstairs for coffee. In a world rife with programmatic buying, targeting and retargeting, the strength of your creative messaging is still what hooks consumers.

One of the biggest issues is a pervasive mindset across many agencies that these areas are mutually exclusive. The different skillsets required for a tech and data guru are usually very different to those required for a creative strategist or a content marketer. I’m not suggesting marketing execs and agency folk should be all things at once, but this could be as simple as creating teams within your business that combine different skillsets. The waters of the Nile can merge.

The obvious (though rarely implemented) solution is to create client teams that have multiple skillsets. Sit a data genius with a media executive, a PR practitioner and a creative strategist. Make sure each disparate skillset is involved in major projects from the onset, otherwise you’ll find that data leads and substandard creative enters the equation as an afterthought, or creative leads and the data specialists are brought into the equation far too late when they have no space to truly shine. This is a relatively simple solution but not many businesses are actually doing it.

A lot of it comes down to the culture – this is a top down approach but you need to find ways to actually get your creatives and your data specialists interacting with one another and learning to work together. The performance elements of a campaign should both influence and be informed by the branding components.

There are some great examples of brands which blend the two, who mine data in order to find the right consumers, and who then carry this approach into their creative messaging. On a grand scale this can achieve amazing things.

I was particularly impressed with a campaign I saw last year in Brazil, where deodorant brand Axe used a data-led approach to segment its audience, then used adaptive creative to feed bespoke individualised creative to each consumer. The ‘Romeo Reboot’ campaign fed a different Shakespearean story to each consumer, based on their personal profile and on the brand’s insights as to which creative would resonate with which audience.

Campaigns like this only come about when a range of skillsets are put into a room to nut out a project from all angles. The perfect marriage of programmatic and branding.

The truth is that data can never truly be void of creativity. The real benefit of data is the human element, the insights we glean, and this inherently involves creative thinking. What’s more, the act of gathering data is frequently underpinned by creative execution.

For example, in the build-up to this weekend’s election, financial comparison site, RateCity, has created a unique ‘Election Calculator’ which gathers data about consumers through a fun quiz that tells people what vote will hit their wallets the hardest. Or take a look at Mazda’s ‘Build Your Own Car’ tool on its website – the tool allows consumers to build their favourite car from scratch, while gathering invaluable audience data for the brand. These examples indicate how creative, interactive or engaging tools can entertain consumers while gathering useful information which can then inform a brand’s future marketing efforts.

The truth is that you can never really separate data and creativity. But in order to exploit the full potential of their union, you’d be well advised to tear down the imaginary walls in your business and bring together as many disparate skillsets as humanly possible. The greatest potential lies in diversity.

Tags: creativity, data-driven marketing, marketing strategy

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