Data is not the enemy of creativity

A debate has been raging on Marketingweek.co.uk. Stripped to its core, in one corner you have creative types pleading for freedom to develop without being sullied by anything as prosaic as data and in the other those that argue creativity is an unaffordable luxury in these austere times when not backed by data.

Russell Parsons

Many of ad-land’s biggest names recently lined up at an event in London to grumble about clients not letting them breathe and take chances.

Typical of the commentators, John Townshend, creative partner at agency Now, said ads are often “over analysed, pasteurised and filtered” at the expense of creativity.

He continued: “The trouble is our process is so intense, with the pressure on clients to hit numbers [that] it is very hard to play when you’ve got nanny over your shoulder telling you not to muck around”.

Townsend and others speaking at the event were making reference to television but the argument that marketing creativity is being stifled by pressure on budgets can also be extended to all channels, DM in particular.

There is pressure on all marketers to show results. Budgets are under pressure and confidence is low, as the most recent Bellwether report demonstrated. Brands in the main know that marketing is a route to revenue generation and are therefore willing to stump up but with a caveat for marketers – prove it can pay.

This doesn’t spell the end of creativity, however. The big idea is not a thing of the past, but it does have to be thought about through a new prism.

The best direct marketing campaigns harness the best in creative thinking, integration and targeting – the recent winner of the “best use of direct marketing” at Marketing Week’s Data Strategy Awards, for example, used what has been seen as limited creative palette in email to develop an imaginative campaign that generated tangible results. Read more here.

The point is this – creativity shouldn’t be a risk, the best direct marketing is as aesthetically pleasing as it is innovative in targeting, timing and use of data. Data isn’t a bar to creativity, it allows a campaign to flourish.

The debate shouldn’t be between data and creativity. It should be about how the two can work together to maximise the effectiveness of any activity.

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