You got data in my creative! You got creative in my data!

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The frustrated CMO said, “I don’t want a digital agency. I want an agency that knows digital.” (There may have been an expletive in there somewhere, removed here for workplace compliance.) This was more than five years ago, an epoch in the current pace of (r)evolution, but the sentiment still resonates, especially as it relates to the role of analytics. Creative that works – that sells (as Mr. Ogilvy would suggest) – is creative informed by data. And data without a creative outlet in the form of persuasive messaging, well, it’s just so many zeros and ones. The walls between creative and analytics need to come down.

Data makes messaging better.

One of the biggest challenges for any message maker is to get inside the mind of the audience. It’s almost impossible not to bring preconceived notions to the table. And let’s face it, advertising agency creatives are not usually your run-of-the-mill consumers. So, the more info - reliable, true info – that we creative practitioners can get, the stronger the insights and more on target the message will be. Back in the day, the only real resource was the focus group. M&Ms and a table full of consumers posing as marketing experts. Hypothetical at best, questionable at worst. Digital developments have changed the landscape.

Creative brings data to life.

It’s tempting to put all the focus on forensic data – the kind that tells you what worked (past tense.) It’s historical in nature. 20/20 hindsight. The allure is its absolute certainty; finite and incontrovertible. Orderly, in columns and matrices. Good to have, don’t get me wrong. In our business of measuring response and determining its impact on the bottom line, forensic data is what keeps the lights on and the monitors glowing. It can help suggest improvements in messaging, to some degree. But this kind of data is output. Less valuable for creative purposes.

The good stuff, from a creative standpoint, is predictive data. This is input to the creative process; behavioral intel, the kind that can help inform message development. Predictive data helps identify what your target audience is thinking based on what they’re actually doing – what search terms are they using, which pages are they spending time with on your website, what kinds of questions/comments are they submitting in chat. Predictive data won’t provide finite answers, but that’s the whole point: creativity is a world of infinite answers. Ideas are experiments that need to be tended and observed, not proofs to be solved. Bring on the data. And let the creative process run its course.

So, let’s get messy. Let’s mix it up. Sit the analysts next to the creatives and see what happens. Bring your spreadsheets and your dashboards. Just don’t be bummed if they get a little creative on them.