The art of conducting data, creativity and ideas

Wherever thinking is needed, there is a need for information, analysis, and creativity. 

Information analysis reduces subjectivity and resolves uncertainty. It’s why people love data so much- it makes decisions more rational, easier for us to justify to ourselves and to others. But before you get all information obsessed (yes I’m talking to you ‘data-driven’ marketer) I’m here to stress the importance of conducting more creativity into the mix. Why? I believe the term ‘data-driven’ marketing is dangerous.

Yes. I’m not scared to suggest numbers and all the logic behind them can be dangerous. Here’s why… Good marketers have the ability to think synergistically. That is, they have the ability to orchestrate lots of moving parts (information, analysis, creativity) at any given time. In other words, they aren’t driven by any one thing (‘data-first’ or ‘creative led’).

In my opinion, neither data or creativity should lead- the art is in conducting an optimum synergy that drives both. Bit like a mutual orgasm really… The art is in denying a dominate lead. The art is conducting information and creativity in a way that harmonises mutual benefit.

Just to be clear
I’m not suggesting that any one person or agency needs to be all things art and science- I get the need for speciality. My argument is that great ideas today are born out of great conducting. They are the result of people and brands who appreciate and are willing to facilitate great cohesion. So with the problem outlined above, let’s have a look at what we can do to better conduct the complexity of modern marketing…

Be data inspired not data driven.
I love data analysis just as much as the other media guys. However information alone isn’t enough so we shouldn’t be ‘driven’ by it. Why? It will never be future perfect and will rarely produce new concepts / directions on it’s own.

‘Data-first’ treats ideas as an afterthought and that’s dangerous as it often leads to poor creative resonance with consumers. This is because ‘data-driven’ marketers plan from the past (‘what was’) vs being inspired to plan with future creative possibilities (‘what could be’). Instead, let’s start a dialect of being ‘inspired’ by one another. Ideas should be a collective input & output, artfully conducted by brands upfront and continually reinforced by data and creative reasoning. True to Darwinism, the strongest ideas will survive.

Conducting creativity into the mix is logic in hindsight but not in foresight.
Because we can only recognise those creative ideas that are logical in hindsight we have mistakenly believed that logic is enough. I believe this isn’t so. If we don’t want the future to replicate the present we need to become interested in the thinking that computers can’t do. This is creative and perceptual thinking- It’s highly subjective stuff (because future possibilities are largely unknown) however reinforced by past behaviours we can become more comfortable with them.

There are problems where the cause is unclear, hard to define or impossible to remove. These problems cannot be solved by information and analysis alone. We need to be able to design a way forward. Creative ideas in this sense are logic in hindsight but not in foresight. Additionally, here I would like to stress my support of creative sciences too hastily dismissed such as semiotics, psychology and behavioural economics.

Big data represents big creative opportunities
One of my favourite examples of data and creativity being conducted is from a guy in the United States called Aaron Koblin who uses data to crowd source creativity. The results are really fascinating, if you have time I recommend viewing:

1. TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/aaron_koblin?language=en
2. The Johnny Cash Project: http://www.thejohnnycashproject.com/
3. Arcade Fire: http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/

Koblins work should serve as inspiration for future opportunities to connect with consumers using data and creativity. As media platforms fragment and become increasingly digitised, data-based trading of ad placements and programmatic creative is likely to rise. A brands contextual relevance, utility and frequency in consumers lives will continue to rise in importance. Most brands won’t be ready or even able to effectively conduct it. Thinking (and acting) synergistically is key.

In summary
Today there is a huge reliance on data and the risk is that we grind creative capabilities down to a level where ideas are an afterthought spat-out from generic data runs. If ‘computer says no’ we probably need to conduct more collective thought around the problem- synergistically.

Moving forward I stress to ‘data-driven’ marketers to consider creative ideas ‘innocent until proven guilty’. In other words, if we want to improve what’s already been done, let’s not be so quick to have data determine which ideas live or die. Let’s inspire and support one another for brand and consumer befit (minus the mutual orgasms).

Great ideas today are born out of great conducting. They are the result of people and brands who appreciate and are willing to facilitate great cohesion between data specialists and creative specialists.

Cheers to the ever evolving art & science.

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