Data and the death of creativity?

The question around data and whether or not data is diametrically opposed to creativity is one that continues to draw thought and debate in the adtech space. So is data going to lead to the death of creativity in media? No. Well not according to me anyway. In fact, I would venture as far as to say that data used correctly and executed properly could empower the next generation of creativity in our industry.

Let’s begin with a definition shall we?

According to the Oxford Englifeaturedsh Dictionary, creativity is defined as:

“the use of imagination or original ideas to create something” 

Now I’m not a psychologist or a philosopher, but it is clear that based on the above definition, creativity will take different forms based on different contexts.

If I were to ask someone within a creative agency what they believed creativity to be, they would likely refer to imagery, storytelling, music, production etc. and the ability to (through artwork and audio & visual) evoke emotion, create a dialogue, epitomise an everyday feeling, and to provoke response amongst the masses.

However, if I were to ask someone from a media agency what they thought of creativity, they would likely talk around tactical channel selection and partnership opportunities, creative and strategic solutions for driving efficiency, creating cut-through and generating real business value by putting the right ad in front on the right person within the right context.

Similarly, if I were to ask someone within a trading desk or a programmatic solutions specialist what creativity meant to them, I would get yet another answer. They would likely talk to their ability to communicate on a 1:1 basis, to form ongoing dialogue and to action data and insights in real-time for the benefit of the advertiser.

The examples could go on and on, and all of the above are fair and true examples of creativity in accordance with its definition. All are valid ways to look at creativity within our industry.

The point that I am trying to make here is that if we wish to understand the impact of data on creativity, we must move past a single-minded concept of what creativity is, beyond imagery (in all its forms).  That’s not to say that imagery isn’t creative, only that creativity must extend beyond the imagery itself. 

When you look at data as the ability to collect information, analyse that information to generate insights, and make those insights actionable, I find it hard to argue that data and creativity are anything other than symbiotic.

Data feeds creativity throughout the ecosystem by allowing different businesses to capitalise on real audience insight. It can spark the imagination of creative agencies and provide evidence to support creative concepts, it allows for better channel selection within agencies, more advanced partnerships based on audiences as well as inventory, and more efficient campaign delivery and optimisation systems. It facilitates true 1:1 communication with cross-device delivery and real-time information feedback loops to better target audiences based on known information. In short, data is allowing people from across the media and advertising industry to work together in new strategic and creative ways for the benefit of all.

 So why the debate?

The debate over data and creativity comes from a lack of understanding and an inability to realise the potential of data in a meaningful way. Ask yourself how many creative agencies are tapping into DMP technology to understand audiences and form strategies based on that insight? How many media agencies are forming data partnerships with publishers to capitalise on unique and valuable audience sets? How many advertisers are dynamically updating creative and online content based on known user information? How often are we optimising our audiencesbased on their propensity to view content?

The technology is there, the capabilities have been built. The potential has even been recognised by most…simply not realised.

In today’s world, data management technology is continually scrutinised for not being highly differentiated. If you truly do believe that all DMP technology is largely the same (it isn’t… but that’s another story) then what really matter is execution. Across the industry we need to review our data strategies and the way in which we want to creatively execute our data strategies through the use of the DMP. We need to be willing to think outside of the box, to go beyond the standard execution, and subsequently to challenge our data partners and tech vendors to match our imagination.

The creative use cases for data and the DMP are endless, and growing. Data will never kill creativity, but if we aren’t careful our lack of creativity could kill the potential role of data to the detriment of all.

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