Media Redefined: How to get creatives to love data
by Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) What is the biggest myth in advertising? That a brilliant idea may come from anywhere.
I know this pricks the bubble of anyone not in the creative department, and to be fair, I also used to buy into this. It certainly motivated my entry into the industry, and meant I often showered expectantly waiting for the “aha” moment which would brilliantly connect with and excite consumers. (There is the odd exception, though, where the production intern has an epiphany halfway through their weekly yoga session and burst into the creative director’s office. carrying a golden nugget.)
Specific kind of mind
What I have come to appreciate is the specific kind of mind required to be creative. It really is a professional art, a craft learnt and honed over years of doing nothing else. Lateral thinking will never come easy to the literal. And that’s fine. Everyone needs to play to their strengths.
However, there is a new stream of creative output that clients are demanding and which creatives need to embrace. This was highlighted when I recently saw a Twitter rant from a senior creative, bemoaning the current obsession with data and ROI when actually creativity and purpose was the real key to the future of the advertising business. This seems to be a widespread view.
In reality, a key line needs to be drawn. Creative that is tasked to build brand and inspire brand love with softer noting and liking metrics should absolutely be developed on “gut and feel” with every ounce of left-field creativity. But clients are demanding something else: creative formulated and executed entirely on what the data says. This requires a creative team to be geared to respond quickly and inexpensively to consumer action and engagement.
Pure response data
This is about pure response data, data which immediately and accurately measures the response to an execution. It already exists in digital and, more and more, it’s being applied in other media, especially TV. Whether it is sales, clicks or call-centre calls that clients are looking for, if they have this data, they are going want to analyse it and want the messaging to adapt dependent on what the data says.
It’s understandable that creatives are not attracted to this. It’s the equivalent of telling Leonardo da Vinci that research showed that people prefer their painting subjects to be happy, so could he paint Mona with a bit more of a glint in her eye?
The crafting of this creative needs two key components.
- It needs to be flexible to be able to be expressed in a number of different ways — an experimental approach aimed at achieving the most-optimal outcome.
- And it needs incredibly quick turnaround. Data has a very short lifespan, and the ability to move fast is what will give data-led creative the edge.
What does this require? It will require a certain kind of creative skill-set, one that buys into and is willing to listen to what the data says and, ultimately, that will be listening to the people closest to the data — the media team and the client research team.
Let’s be honest, this is not popular development. But, just like Steve Jobs insisted on “technology married with the humanities”, creatives shouldn’t be scared of the potential impact of data married to creative. After all, we’re trying to sell our clients’ products here.
Martin MacGregor (@MartMacG) is managing director of Connect, an M&C Saatchi Company, with offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Martin has spent 18 years in the industry, and has previously worked at Ogilvy and was MD of MEC Nota Bene in Cape Town. He contributes the monthly “Media Redefined” column, in which he challenges norms in the media space, to MarkLives.com.
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