I’ve attended many marketing and brand events over the years. You realise when looking back that only some will lodge that great big ‘ahhh’ moment in your head.

One event I do remember well was 2013’s The Big Rethink. I can recall several of the useful (and useless) insights that helped me on my journey as a marketing leader at the time.

These were two of the biggies that day that stayed with me over the years.

1. From a staff poll conducted at Siegal+Gale which looked to find out what makes people happy, not one person returned the answer ‘booze’. I concluded the research obsolete immediately.

2. Probably one of the most useful one-liners I’ve heard so far in my career came from Sir Hegarty, founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty and founding shareholder of Saatchi & Saatchi. He said with ease “Don’t let data get in the way of a great idea”.

cue my introduction to the debate around data and creative in marketing.

Don't let data get in the way of a great idea.

Sir John Hegarty

It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Coming from a guy who is the epitome of ‘making it big’ in the advertising world, he was able to relay in the simplest way the daily struggle most marketers, myself included, face. Data and what to do with it.

The University of California developed an infographic to show the average data consumed by Americans in one day. The total figure was a frightening 3.6 zettabytes. So in a time when we are are faced with more than 5.1 trillion hard drives worth of stuff, the role of data has to be about relevancy right?

In December 2016 Spotify launched its “Thanks 2016, it’s been weird” campaign, which surfaces the greater good of data and creative coming together in one of the most inspiring pieces of work I’ve seen in recent times.

The hyper-localised campaign used quirky facts and figures from its own data to create relatable content to its vast audiences across the globe. Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman, describes the concept as “turning the debate about big data muting creativity in marketing” on its head and I would have to agree.

It’s relevant and inspiring at the same time – something I am relentlessly replaying the importance of to my team. Because content that is neither of these does not lend itself to great story telling.

I remember working on a hyper-personalised campaign aimed at upselling customers within a range of complex price plans back in 2015. The use of intricate transactional data to make relevant, personalised recommendations (yes, a story!) wasn’t just effective, it saw the company deliver an unprecedented 80% conversion to sale rate.

In hindsight, it was so simple, and so glaringly obvious. Of course, without the slick CRM it was a pain to deliver. But the data teams and marketing teams were locked-in to make this work. It became the sounding board to conversations about serious investment in CRM delivery and system integration.

Looking back at Sir Hegarty’s comments, I realise this isn’t a debate about data preventing creativity. As marketers we need to develop strong, effective relationships with our data teams and instead of asking ourselves “will data prevent a great idea”, try a different tact. How great could the idea be with the right data?

Tweet us with your own experiences of data and creative working together (or not).


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