Dissolving the data – creativity deadlock

Dissolving the data – creativity deadlock

By: Jessica E Roberts

Big data is getting bigger. Automation is becoming the new normal. Programmatic advertising is marketing’s latest darling.

The latest eMarketer report shows U.S. programmatic digital display ad spending will grow 137.1 percent, from $10 billion this year to $20.41 billion in 2016.

Google’s global CMO Lorraine Twohill wants to spend 60 percent of its own marketing budget on programmatic advertising.

At the Web Summit in Dublin, Twohill predicted that all advertising will become programmatic.

And she didn’t stop there. She challenged creative agencies to toss the “comfort blanket” and to be “immersive” with data-driven marketing.

How should organizations dive into data-driven marketing?

Future-forward brands are succeeding at making a “digital transformation.” This transformation is described in the latest research report published by Altimeter Group’s Brian Solis:

Digital transformation is defined as “the realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital consumers at every touch point in the customer experience lifecycle.”

Successful digital transformation requires a brave commitment to big data and respect for the humans creating those numbers.

Pitting data and creativity against each other creates a deadlock. Can we risk standing still when big data is bursting with opportunities and people are craving stories?

Tesco big data case study

Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket chain, has been both a formidable digital leader and business model for the retail industry. Tesco’s marketing, analytics, depth of customer data and industry experience made the chain an oft-cited reference as the data-driven company to follow.

Today, Tesco is facing a chairman resignation and an 11-year market value low.

What happened to Britain’s biggest supermarket titan and data-driven darling?

Despite all of its customer data, experience and attempts at overseas expansion, Tesco was falling behind its competitors and losing customer confidence. Shoppers began to question whether Tesco was serving itself, rather than serving the needs of the customer. Customers turned to simpler, less “gimmicky” brands. Tesco tried to compensate with more “family” oriented activities and services at their stores.

But this isn’t what people wanted.

Consumers were becoming aware of how large supermarket chains adversely affected local economies. The public was interested in supporting local food communities, stores, producers and the creation of “transition towns” to build sustainable communities.

Tesco’s data-driven enterprise missed a pivotal opportunity to create the relevant stories people wanted to hear, support and share.

Is the data to blame for Tesco’s failure to connect with their consumers?

The data itself wasn’t to blame, but the data needed creativity to humanize the numbers. Tesco might have failed from a misuse of data. They didn’t accurately use their data tools and analytics to create relevant insights and ideas for their customers. Those creative initiatives would have needed to be tested and brought back to the data.

Ben Plomion, vice president of marketing at Chango, shared his thoughts on data and creativity in our interview.

“Creative is driving attention, desire and action from the consumer.”

“With programmatic, there is a human element in developing insights and leading, then tying that intelligence back to the brand.”

Creativity drives, data directs.

Data and creativity need each other. Big data needs the guidance, wisdom and humanity of creativity. Creativity needs the speed, totality and accuracy of big data.

Integrating the speed of data with the humanness of creativity cultivates agility.

An agile organization is digitally “fit.” Agile organizations can maneuver around the digital transformation without sacrificing data or creativity.

Automation does not mean nonhuman. Our ability to collect, analyze and scale big data enables deeper insights to human behavior. It’s here where marketers need their creativity the most. Knowing what makes consumers “tick and click” puts creatives in a position to tell the right stories at the right time.

Actor and producer Kevin Spacey summed it up in his closing keynote speech at this year’s Content Marketing World. Brands must give consumers “what they want, when they want it, how they want it and at a price they are willing to pay.”

Agility is going to be a key asset for industries and organization to thrive in a turbulent digital world. Here are five key takeaways to help organizations flow effortlessly between data and creativity, dissolve deadlocks and optimize the digital customer experience.

Key takeaways:

  1. Creatives: Don’t neglect the numbers. Every data dot is created by a human. Numbers will empower your words, not weaken them. As stated by , creatives need to become digital natives in every sense of the word or they will be passed over.
  1. Data drivers: Creativity isn’t just for the so-called right-brained thinkers. Creativity is a common thread we all share.

“Creativity isn’t some special, exotic power that a few people have. If you’re a human being, it comes with the kit.” – Sir Ken Robinson

  1. Leadership: Help to bridge the gap between data and creativity. An invested C-suite and supportive leadership are essential for successful digital transformation.
  1. “Break bread”: Creatives and data drivers should sit down and talk with each other. Share your stories. Walk in each other’s shoes for a day. Appreciate and value your strengths.
  1. Get agile: Develop agility and improve your digital “fitness” with patience, persistence and daily practice.


  1. http://www.businessinsider.com/google-programmatic-advertising-2014-11
  2. http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/09/ruthless-pragmatism-kevin-spacey/
  3. http://www.emarketer.com/Article/US-Programmatic-Ad-Spend-Tops-10-Billion-This-Year-Double-by-2016/1011312
  4. https://hbr.org/2014/10/tescos-downfall-is-a-warning-to-data-driven-retailers
  5. http://www.briansolis.com/2014/04/7-key-take-aways-brian-solis-report-digital-transformation/
  6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYPR4S5pdls
  7. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/22/tesco-pursuit-of-profit-britains-biggest-supermarket

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