Why Data And Creative Are Better Together

“Where do new ideas come from? The answer is simple: differences. Creativity comes from unlikely juxtapositions.” –Nicholas Negroponte


Data, Data, Data — it’s all you ever hear about lately. We recently went to a product design conference in San Francisco, and everyone was sippin’ on that data flavored Kool Aid. We get it, data-driven branding, marketing and product design is here to stay. Its abrupt takeover in the ad world has creatives’ heads spinning like mad and consumers on edge. As with anything new, the word data evokes some disdain, but it’s also opening doors for more creativity and innovation.

What is “Data”

Data is all around us–it’s anything that can be measured. We call on it to get through our day, each and every day. While the term has only recently found a seat at the marketing table,

data is nothing new. The way we measure it, however, has gone through a tremendous evolution. We now have access to details of consumer behavior we never thought we’d need. Sometimes, it’s far more than we need–and that’s where the conflict between data-driven folks and creatives resides.

Data and Creative: The Ad World’s New Power Couple

When Cannes launched its Creative Data Lions back in 2015, it stirred considerable backlash from creatives. Some fear data means the end of creativity in advertising, though this fear in itself might be more of a threat than data on its own. Creatives should not be afraid of it, but instead own it. That’s the clear message at Cannes, where In 2017, the Creative Effectiveness Lions included awards for “the measurable impact of creativity”.

Creatives argue that data narrows creative output, especially if everyone has similar data. This can be true, if you work in a team where data is the authority. Data is only the rival if you give it more authority than creative. If used properly, it can be a tool for enhanced creativity.

In fact data can be overwhelmingly positive for creatives, but it does take some getting used to. It’s not the information that makes creatives data-averse–creatives rarely ask for less information–instead they don’t want to sift through data points and spreadsheets. Creatives want the most valuable information so they can then use it to produce better work. It’s up to management to create a team where data analysts and creatives work together to find innovative solutions.

There was a time, not long ago, when we feared computers would ruin creative. But once creatives took ownership of the new technology as a tool, incredible opportunities were unlocked. The same goes for data. It is the mindset that needs changed (and maybe the ego around data could use some deflating, too.)

That doesn’t mean you have to do the number stuff, but accept it and use it. Information makes creativity easier, and it’s necessary for successful branding and marketing.


The Downside Of One-Track Data Mind

Data is not a deity, and therefore should not be feared. While it is admittedly useful to have access to consumer behaviors, we do not get the full story from them. Ideally, data serves creativity, and vice versa. It allows creatives to see things we may have otherwise overlooked. But where would data be without creativity to convey it? If we only focus on data, then we lose our ability to identify creative solutions. The answer is not in the data, it is in the way it’s interpreted and contextualized.