Data: The New Creative

One of the hottest marketing catchphrases of 2012 is "data is the new creative." The premise is that all the creative in the world won't help you if your decisions are not data-driven.

Data is the new creative!

For those who are squarely in the analytics camp, this new sentiment must feel like a vindication for long years slaving away, gleaning insights from facts and figures without much appreciation (well, maybe that's not entirely accurate, but sometimes it feels that way.) It's about time colleagues and clients realize they could have avoided numerous mistakes if they had only taken the time to look at the data first. The argument is that for too long, people have used "smoke and mirrors" to sell clients programs with flashy creative that was not built on a solid foundation based on data-driven insights.

Is data the new creative?

On the flip side, many talented creative people see clients doing the same boring old things they have always done based on some stodgy egghead's calculations. The inherent fear of trying any new ideas due to the threat of running afoul of FDA regulations or supposed lack of evidence for success makes creative marketers want to scream! It's bad enough that people hide behind an army of lawyers who are afraid of government censure -- now we have to come up with a master's thesis before we can proceed with any new ideas. Sometimes you have to have a little faith to be innovative.

Data + creative = success

Actually, the truth lies somewhere in between. Data, and analysis of existing programs, should be used to refine ideas or cut out tactics that have not performed as expected in the past. To evaluate success, initial targets should be created based on similar programs or events that have been implemented before. At the very least, regular reporting should be included in the evaluation process to monitor results as you move forward.

That doesn't mean that it's wrong to take a chance once in a while. Sometimes it's equally important to break out of old routines and come up with some new ideas. Better to try and fail than to never try at all. But even a brand-new idea should be based on some sort of logic. Believe it or not, analytics people are not afraid to be challenged. A rough ROI model can be hammered out if the creative and analytics people get together and have a conversation. The key is to establish initial objectives and figure out the answer to the age old question: What does success look like.

Sometimes data can fuel new creative ideas. A global health care company that manufactures a number of prescription medicines recently embraced the capabilities of an in-house survey tool that enhances the ability to receive feedback from patients involved in relationship marketing programs. A series of short surveys were conducted to learn from the people who have opted in to receive educational materials about a chronic condition. The results of the surveys were extremely valuable.



The responses revealed that over 50% of those receiving treatment were apprehensive about starting treatment because of concerns about side effects. We also learned that 75% of enrollees felt that the condition had a significant impact on their lives and their daily routines. When we polled patients about potential tools, we learned that a smartphone application received high marks, while text messaging was of little value.

The above data points have been shared with the creative team and have provided specific direction to focus their energies. This in turn will fuel a new program strategy and provide the foundation on which to build creative ideas for 2013. Program enhancements based on patient feedback will boost engagement metrics and will ensure that existing consumers stay on treatment and have positive medical results.




6 comments about "Data: The New Creative".
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  1. Paul Amourdedieu from Midnight Burner, December 4, 2012 at 3:58 a.m.

    A great article Louis – you’ve hit the mark on so many points. It is good to see the talents of the analysts being recognised – doesn’t happen often enough in my book! It’s also good to remind business-leaders of the importance of effective translation of data – far too often, expensive research papers sit gathering dust when they could hold the golden solution.

    Let’s remember that it’s not data OR creative in isolation though. The most effective route is a combination of both. Years ago I was told 'data is the new oil... we just need to understand how to refine it for our own best use.' This concept stuck with me and was one of the triggers for the launch of which combines insights with innovation to design commercially valuable solutions.

    I think over the coming years we will see a closer combination of both and the emergence of PR Consultants /Creative Marketers who focus their service on analysing data

    Historically we will all have experienced Creatives who don’t want to ‘taint’ themselves with data and, at the other end of the spectrum, brand managers who are overwhelmed by the simple weight of information – so they can’t see the wood for the trees.

    There is an increasingly valid argument that data-driven creative ideas have the potential to be of higher commercial value.

    We’ve recently completed a project for a sports broadcaster and the findings (from their internal customer data) coupled with our external insights into forthcoming trends /micro-trends has led to some excellent creative marketing recommendations for implementation in 2013/14.

  2. Brian Rapp from Roberts Communications, December 4, 2012 at 9:38 a.m.

    Excellent point, Louis. Data has to be viewed as an equal partner in reaching target audiences with relevant, compelling communications. And looking at data creatively-- thinking about what new, different, creative and surprising (but not creepy) things can be done with it -- is where exciting possibilities exist.

  3. Robert Brazys from DataXu, December 4, 2012 at 1:13 p.m.

    But with out great creative out in front of that data, no one will care. This would be more aptly worded: Data Is The New Brainstorming

  4. Paul Amourdedieu from Midnight Burner, December 4, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.

    Robert - spot on!

  5. Mariet Louhento from CoolAge, December 4, 2012 at 4:05 p.m.

    We use the term » data driven creativity.

  6. Sione Palu from Feynmance, December 4, 2012 at 6:57 p.m.

    Louis said... "A rough ROI model can be hammered out if the creative and analytics people get together and have a conversation." Louis, this has been going on for a long time, but it is mainly the academic researchers who are doing it. They publish their scholarly work in peer review journals. There are so many research journals available in the literature today, that analysts in the industry must tap into. I usually come across commentaries on the net from industry analysts (who are simply unaware of the existence of research journals - which are original work) where they often talked about some ideas that are seemingly knew, however such ideas have already been made available and published in research journals. A company such as RocketFuel with analysts who have come from R&D backgrounds understands this. They do original researach work themselves (which they don't publish and that's understandabale) plus they scour the research literature to look for new ideas in order to develop new technology based on those ideas. So, such research based team of analysts tend to be always ahead of the game. Not only that, they don't want to re-invent the wheel. I mean if they're looking for a solution for a specific problem, then why not search the research literature for any work that has been done on that topic rather than doing original R&D on it, only to find out later that someone else has already done work on that topic. It meant that they spent an unnecessary amount of time & money researching something that has already been done before. All they should have done was to search for such research and grab it and implement. Unless they were aware of the existence of such prior work, but they wanted to do R&D on the topic in order to improve the performance of the methods described in the original research which is quite common in academic research. This is why algorithms are always improving. Someone today grabbed a research paper that has been available in the literature over the last few years and looked at it to see if it could be improved. If they think they can, then they will do R&D based on the specific existing research paper they're interested in, to improve that analytic method. Software companies like Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and others do this thing all the time. They have an army of PhDs who do nothing all day, but to improve existing analytic methods or simply invent new one that has never been researched before. They often published their R&D papers in academic research journals which means they're talking indirectly to other analysts, since analysts who like to follow research literatures keep an eye on what's new that have been published, because of the potential benefits to them for technology implementation.

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