Commentary

The Creative Dilemma: It's Not All About Data

Advances in big data and AI have marketers closer than ever to achieving a true 360-degree view of their customers.

But is that really the ultimate end game? While marketers agree that data is important, a singular focus on amassing more data is often done at the expense of creative and the overall visual experience for the consumer.

In 2019, I predict that marketers will shift attention back to creative and how they can pair it with data for a more balanced approach that results in both personalized and engaging visual experiences.

The forces that pushed data and creative out of balance

For a long time, marketing was all about creative. The “Mad Men” era was dominated by the creative executive, but marketing’s business impact was much harder to measure than it is today.

Then came digital and everything changed. With digital came data, and with it, the realization that everything could be measured and optimized. Marketers embraced the opportunity to demonstrate ROI for their efforts.

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Along the way, things became overly indexed toward data collection, management, and enablement. With the flood of data, marketers focused heavily on performance-based marketing — and in the process, great creative often got lost.

Digital provided marketers with new reach and opportunities to go beyond mass marketing. However, creative was more of an afterthought, partly because taking a more 1:1 approach to personalizing the visual elements would require an army of designers.

The inevitable shift back to creative

The possibility of driving even more permutations of marketing messages is exciting, but in the end, marketing lives and dies by the content (and experience) of those messages. A recent Nielsen study estimated that the creative drives 47%  of an ad’s contribution to sales. That’s far more than targeting (9%). As the report stated, “weak creative leads to weak sales lift.” Marketers have become masters at gathering customer data, but if they fail to provide compelling creative in that last millisecond that gets a consumer to engage, all the time and investment in data is wasted.

These trends will force brands to focus more on creative – but it’s not about abandoning data. It’s now about marrying great data and creative to restore the equilibrium. As this shift back to the creative side takes place, marketers must focus on generating unique visual experiences at scale. It’s inevitable in today’s “Instagram era” where visual is the language that moves people to act.

How to prepare now

In 2019 and beyond, brands need to think about how they can create unique, data-driven visuals that go beyond segment-level personalization and traditional dynamic content that is based on the limited data available when a campaign is launched.

There’s an opportunity for marketers to take a fresh look at their tech stack, bring the same attention and focus that they’ve had on data and apply it to finding technologies that will enable them to speak the visual language of their customers.

The shift back to creative is coming. Will you be ready?

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