Data vs. Creative: What's The Fuss?

New Business & Marketing Manager

Matt Tilling

New Business & Marketing Manager

Posted: 01 August 2016

Charles Vallance’s recent article in Marketing Week claiming ‘big ideas still create the most value’ felt like he was speaking for a large portion of the creative community. In it he suggests that data, far from giving us a better view of consumer behaviour and desires, has actually made the end-goal more convoluted. The last line says it all: ‘don’t write the mad men off just yet’.

Understandably, creatives feel a threat from a ‘programmable’ era perfectly encapsulated in the form of programmatic display advertising. Seemingly, big above-the-line messaging is under attack by self-optimising algorithms capable of modifying creative for the individual recipient at a granular level, leading some to declare the end of advertising as we know it.

However, data is no longer the zeitgeist of modern marketing, no longer just ‘in vogue’, it is a fundamental part of the marketing methodology giving marketers infinitely more insight into the way consumers engage with, and what they want from, brands. Moreover, big ideas and creativity still underpin our ability as marketers to connect with consumers. Making this connection at an emotional level remains the core objective for any piece of marketing communications.

Arguably this discussion is actually hindering the glorious future that lies ahead for data and creative. Sure, deeper insight into target audiences challenges creatives to produce ever more innovative content, but isn’t that the point? Are we not meant to push our discipline further by challenging ourselves to strike more of an emotional chord with our audience?

The last thing the industry needs is a weekly round-up of all the ways programmatic ads are killing creativity and how mad men are turning into ‘maths men’. There are too many pressing issues in our industry, issues like ongoing gender inequality and media kickbacks that threaten to undermine the media sector as a whole, to worry about a marriage of analytical and creative thought that will in fact only work to enhance the quality of our work.

So to reassure those who fear data may be the harbinger of doom for big ideas, here are 3 examples of data and creative coming together to create innovative and effective work:


Topman - ‘Your style: SORTED’

Proof that programmatic and creative can go hand-in-hand, Topman shot 5 different models representing their key customer segments and then used programmatic to serve different display ads to each. Content was optimised according to browsing behaviour on different sites.


EA Sports – Madden ‘Giferator’

EA Sports sought to reconnect with NFL fans via real-time generated GIFs. Fans watching the game and looking at secondary devices were served personalised GIFs of their team in real-time on their social channels.


Tennessee Tourism – One Minute Vacation

Tennessee Tourism created 24 different banner ads depicting road trips to certain Tennessee tourist destinations. The relevant creative was then served to individuals based on browsing history and popular social media topics.

Creative will continue to generate value, but whether it drives more value than a sophisticated programmatic algorithm, for example, is a moot point; the two are designed to do exactly the same thing and actually require each other to be most effective.

The key for creatives is making sure data gives them all they need to create ever more engaging content.

Matt Tilling
New Business & Marketing Manager