Data: The New Creative

By: Louis Winokur 

MediaPost - 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.

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