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Data vs. Creativity: Who is going to win this battle?

The magic happens when the right brain and left brain work together.

Written by George Stein
on 07.31.18

I don’t know about you, but reading articles, social media posts, and news related to the advertising and marketing industry lately makes me feel we live on some kind of battlefield, surrounded by two enemies ready to fight: the one who raises the “data flag” and the one who raises the “creativity flag.”

There is a lot of noise about how consultancies and ad tech are taking over the advertising agency world and how data is “killing” creativity. However, if the goal is to develop meaningful relationships between brands and consumers, the truth is that data cannot live without creativity… and vice versa.

The creative use of data helps us discover deep insights about our most valuable customers.  This includes what they love about your brand or product, what they hate, what they talk about, and what they are searching for. In addition, data helps prioritize the most appropriate channel and context to deliver the message.

But here’s the thing: data isn’t the message itself. Data requires creative translation to trigger empathy. I’ve never heard someone say, “Hey, I just bought this product because I really like their data.” Quite the contrary, people love brand stories and the emotional connections they establish. To make your customer pay attention and take action, you need to develop something they care about.

There is also another critical factor: people like to be surprised. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” So the use of data – and sometimes the confrontation of the data – can bring a lot of innovation to the table giving you insights no one thought of before.

So… why are so many creative people struggling with this new data mindset? Because data is rational, numeric, statistical, and… surprise! Creative brains often don’t work like that. But, if you look at data as a perfect weapon that produces powerful insights and uncovers “real truths” about the audience and the product or service, the whole perception of data changes. What creative person wouldn’t want more ammunition for better ideas?

The examples of creativity and data establishing strong narratives and generating extraordinary results are not hard to find.

Two years ago, Spotify won several Cannes Lions by pairing their own data with sharp humor to create a global outdoor campaign.

Last year, Flights.com developed an integrated campaign by crossing data from the latest iPhone release with studies that link long-term happiness to experiences, rather than buying material things.

Just recently, Lego won a Silver Lion with one idea that analyzed Google’s search data and retailer purchase data to predict the most popular toys at Christmas.  They then created Lego Products based on the wish list.

When creativity and data fight with each other, there are no winners. The brand will inevitably fail in one specific moment of the customer journey for not being precise or persuasive enough. However, when standing side by side in the battlefront, the chances of victory are tremendous.