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Data-driven vs data-informed creativity: 6 experts share their visions

The debate around whether organizations should adopt a data-driven or a data-informed approach is not new. However, the concept of technocreativity is now beginning to make good advertising sense. We wanted to gather the opinions of a few industry professionals on creativity, and the pros and cons of it being either driven or informed by data.

In a data-driven approach, data is at the centre of the decision-making process; it’s the primary input and, in many cases, the only input. On the other hand, the data-informed approach advocates for the combined use of data, context, intuition and experience to arrive at decisions, being considered the “superior” by many.

The cognitive-behavioural economist, and partner, at behavioural insight agency Irrational Agency, Leigh Caldwell, has a more balanced view of the subject: “If you have invented a unique product, or work in an industry with unsophisticated marketing, a data-driven process is probably fine. If you are in a mature market where brands are really important, simple processes won't cut it.” Take note…

The more data-driven and dynamic options, the better

Cadi Jones“There is always a risk in over-targeting. However, there are some great examples of digital- first brands producing multiple executions of their adverts to ensure they are relevant. ThirdLove has done this very well across Connected TV, where it’s possible to target audiences. While there has been controversy recently from commentators, such as John Hegarty, suggesting that an over-reliance on data makes advertising ‘boring’, from my perspective, the more data-driven and dynamic options, the better.”

Cadi Jones, commercial director EMEA Beeswax as well as co-founder of WomenPresent, head of partnerships at Bloom

Data only adds and supports the creative process

Mike White“Data-informed gets my vote! Creativity is not controlled by one influence. Creativity has always been developed through insight, even if the idea is instinctively created, it’s been created by someone that understands the brand, product and audience. Data only adds and supports the creative process.”

Michael White, CEO & founding partner at Lively Worldwide

Room for human interventions and interpretation

tim bond“Data has the capacity to inform a host of decisions and strategies for brands. However, there should always be room for surprise too. As such, creativity that is informed by data leaves room for human interventions and interpretation.”

Tim Bond, head of Insight and PR at Data & Marketing Association

Dangers of making decisions without applying a level of human reasoning

Tamara Lucas“I like to think that we use data to inform better content. So, I would say data-informed creativity. Working with social media data, I have seen the dangers of making purely data-driven decisions without applying a level of human reasoning. For example, choosing influencers based on nothing more than their follower count. It's our duty to ask the right questions and go beyond mere data points, to use the data and its context to build our understanding of the audience’ preferences, behaviours and interests. What we certainly need to avoid is retro-fitting the stories data tell us into justifying pre-conceived creative solutions.”

Tamara Lucas, associate director at Convosphere

More customisable, adaptable and relevant creative assets

Diseño sin título (4)“Too often marketers see a conflict between data and creativity, with the former typically seen as stymying the latter. This perceived incompatibility is a version of C. P. Snow’s ‘The two cultures’ all over again. Snow made his complaint about arts versus sciences back in the 1950s - can’t we move on? If the system’s working properly, data doesn’t stymy creativity. It does the very opposite: it helps to unlock its potential by making creative assets more customisable, adaptable, relevant, fleet-of-foot and nuanced in the delivery. As an industry, we might not quite be there yet when it comes to a seamless intermeshing of the two, but the future possibilities are endless and exciting.”

Geoff Copps, managing partner, head of data at Kinesso (an IPG company)

It depends on the maturity of the marketing in your industry

Leigh Caldwell“I think the real question should be: should creativity be implemented by a well-understood algorithm and business process, or should it be run by black-box neural networks (which could be a piece of AI technology or the brain of a graphic artist)? I think the answer depends on the maturity and competitiveness of the marketing discipline in your industry sector. If you have invented a unique product or work in an industry with unsophisticated marketing, a data-driven process is probably fine. If you are in a mature market where brands are really important, simple processes won't cut it. That's when the creative process needs the richness and unpredictability of real or artificial brains.”

Leigh Caldwell, cognitive-behavioural economist and partner at behavioural insight agency Irrational Agency

Original pic by Shahadat Rahman (Unsplash)

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