CMO fireside chat: Why data and creativity work better together

Simon Kahn, Damien Crittenden, Miguel de Andrés-Clavera / October 2019

The number of internet users in APAC continues to skyrocket — especially on mobile — making consumer insights from data more accessible than ever. As more brands lean on new technologies to guide their creative approaches, does marketing risk becoming more science than art? Google APAC’s CMO Simon Kahn joined other industry experts for a fireside chat to explore the relationship between data and creativity and the role of creatives in an increasingly digital-first world.

In the past, creativity in marketing was treated as an abstract concept that depended as much on gut feeling as it did on research. But in yesterday’s era dominated by TV ads, marketers typically had to rely on demographics to get their creative in front of the right audience. With a relatively limited understanding of who they were trying to reach and a small number of places to reach them, one message often needed to resonate with millions of people.

Today, hundreds of millions of people go online every day, and smartphones reign supreme. This has allowed marketers to move beyond demographics by harnessing digital signals that provide a deeper understanding of what motivates, inspires, and resonates with their audiences. New technology has given us the power to extract human insights from heaps of data and amplify our best creative ideas.

A lot of marketers view data exclusively as an optimization and post-campaign measurement tool rather than fuel for creativity. But there’s no clear line where creativity stops and technology begins. Modern marketing requires them to be intertwined, and it’s up to leadership to bridge the gap between art and science in their own organizations.

New technology has given us the power to extract human insights from heaps of data and amplify our best creative ideas.

In a new fireside chat moderated by Miguel de Andrés-Clavera, head of creative technology at ZOO APAC, Google APAC’s CMO Simon Kahn joined Damien Crittenden, vice president of client strategy at Xaxis, to explore the intersection of creativity and data. Their conversation uncovered three key lessons for marketers wondering whether the two can live together and how to set their organizations up for success.

Check out the highlights from their chat below:

1) Creativity = abstract thinking in every role

We usually define “creative” as a format to express ideas — like a banner ad, TV commercial, or video spot — while “creatives” are the people coming up with those ideas. But when creativity is viewed through such a restrictive lens, brands risk relegating their creative decision-making to a single department, or even one person. However, creativity can — and should — be a combined effort across the entire team, from copywriters and media planners to data scientists.

In an increasingly digitized and data-driven world, we need to return to the original definition of the word: novel and out-of-the-box thinking. Creativity can’t only come into play while executing a campaign and then get overlooked in research and planning. Everyone in an organization should be empowered to explore new strategies and approaches to brand challenges.

2) Technology should enhance, not replace, creativity

In an increasingly competitive online landscape where brands are jostling to make their voices heard, data and technology are helping marketers break through the noise and land their messages with impact. Machine learning can parse historical data to surface the foundation of a new creative idea, while programmatic tools automatically assemble dynamic, relevant ads to drive maximum performance.

As automation becomes more prominent in marketing, the tedious aspects of campaign set-up and execution will inevitably be handed over to machines. However, the process of generating a good idea based on recommendations from machine learning will remain a uniquely human task.

The most engaging messages start with genuine insights about an audience. That’s where data and technology can help marketers uncover new correlations. From there, human creativity comes in to craft original ad experiences that surprise, delight, and resonate with people.

3) Break down silos and find your North Star

For an idea or message to have a lasting impact, creative and media agencies need to align on the ultimate goal. One side can’t be focused on crafting a hyper-focused message while the other is shooting for mass appeal. The magic happens when organizations bring the left and right brains together — analytics and creative.

A continuous feedback loop is essential. When everyone is focused on the same goal, data scientists know which patterns they should be looking for, and planners and creatives can use those insights to develop, execute, and amplify an original idea.

To read more about the role of data-driven insights in modern marketing, check out Simon’s previous fireside chat moderated by business and brand strategist Martin Roll.

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