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Is access to too much data leading to a lack of creativity for marketers?

Whither the affect large data and creativity in marketing? Apparently, the debate pairs such information with boredom.

Today’s data-driven landscape has led marketers to question whether reliance on statistics is compromising creativity. The question is, can you still be creative if you’re data-driven?

At a 2017 Marketing Week roundtable, HSBC’s former head of marketing in EMEA Philip Mehl said: “Marketing used to be a creative challenge, but it’s a data challenge now.” Speaking on the same subject in an article for Campaign, the chief creative officer of advertising giant TBWA/Singapore & Southeast Asia Edmund Choe stated: “When I speak to creatives, they don’t always see how data could be used in harmony with creativity. The problem is that they find data boring. To them, data is rational. And great creative isn’t.”

Despite this, successful, modern campaigns prove to us that data-driven marketing and creativity are not mutually exclusive. With data historically used to drive performance, marketers are increasingly using data to enhance campaigns and drive greater creativity. In the same Campaign article, chief executive officer of global design and digital agency Critical Mass Dianne Wilkins said that “behavioural measurement shouldn’t lull us away from using the creative process to intuit and proactively experience what customers will experience and vice versa.”

The best marketing campaigns have always been carved from ideas built on insight. After all, without insights, how could a marketer identify the right target audience, the elements that make them tick, along with what’s deemed as valuable brand interaction? CEO of tech startup Intelligent Operations (IO) Tom Bowman stated in an article for The Drum: “Science can unlock our art. But, to do so, we first have to answer the 'how?'”

Wilkins agrees, stating that “meaningful success will come to those who can augment data with creativity to empathise with the customer.”

It appears that creativity isn’t a compromise when it comes to incorporating data into marketing. Marketing director at Kellogg UK & Ireland Gareth Maguire told Marketing Week that he believed a change in approach was key to achieving campaign success in today’s data-driven world. Changing the brand’s traditional nostalgic approach, Maguire stated that its “marketing focus had to shift to reflect the way our consumers are digesting advertising messages.”

It seems that instead of lamenting data as causing the death of creativity, it should be treated as the single greatest tool marketers have with the focus shifting on what can be done to extract more and learn how best to apply it to future campaigns. The more data at our fingertips, the better the insight into how customers think, behave and feel, leading to more tailored and successful campaigns all around.