Adshel CMO: Is Big Data Making Big Ideas An Endangered Species?

Adshel CMO: Is Big Data Making Big Ideas An Endangered Species?
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In this guest column, Adshel’s head of marketing, Charlotte Valente (pictured below), weighs in on the murky “data VS creativity” debate and reveals why neither work in isolation but should be a marriage made in adland heaven…

The information revolution has given the advertising industry its own chicken and egg moment. What comes first? The big idea or the big data? Data may fuel the insights, but is it aiding or abetting the creative process?

Is data killing creativity? (You can read Adshel’s recent white paper on the subject here).

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While the creative process has traditionally been driven by intuition and personal observation, the rise of digital technology and the masses of data it serves up has challenged the validity of gut feel and creativity.

Adshel recently gathered industry thought-leaders for roundtables in Sydney and Melbourne to dissect the challenges for creativity in the era of big data.

The discussions revealed a data-obsessed industry that has created an environment where the value and role of advertising is being diluted, questioned, challenged and changed.

Our roundtables raised the point that hyper-reliance on data for proof, justification and measurement has seen advertising forced into the sales space, with a focus increasingly on short-termism, driving sales and promotion over long-term brand building.

One thought was that data has made us too focused on ‘can we prove it’? and too little on engagement and creating desire, leaving creative advertising hamstrung and hindering the ability to connect with consumers emotionally.

As Mindshare’s innovation director Jack Smyth explained: “We’ve become obsessed with this idea of the right message for the right person at the right time. We’re chasing that holy trinity and assume if you have all three, your job is done. So data is killing creativity to that extent. It’s making us lazy. People buy into the notion ‘the data tells me this is right so we should do it’.”

But is it simply a case of data being used the wrong way? According to Kelly Slessor, CEO at Shop You, the current approach is fundamentally broken because we’re not using data holistically: “We set up creatives and say, ‘Go prove the hypothesis’ rather than ‘Go use the data to determine how emotionally we can connect with the consumer’.”

Short-term pressures mean the ‘less-risky’ choice – the option based on metrics – becomes the default position at the expense of creativity and the longer-term customer journey.

The core of the problem is not the data per se, but how businesses approach it. We need to connect, communicate and collaborate to drive more and better insights.

Data needs rigorous analysis and interpretation, interrogation and questioning. Data helps inform decisions, but the questions you ask are critical to provide context, reasons and insights, because data can be wrong if simply taken at face value.

Data needs a human touch. Shop You’s Slessor explained: “Diverse thinking is really important, but you need translators. You can’t just place developers with creatives and data scientists because they’ll sit there blankly and stare at each other. You need someone to translate, who is emotionally intelligent, who totally gets what the consumer wants.”

In the end, the data versus creativity conundrum is not a matter of ‘either or’. The answer lies not in choosing a side, but in implementing the cultural shift required to meld data and creativity more effectively, interrogating the data at every turn, questioning measurement metrics and not losing sight of the power of emotional connections and brave ideas.

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