Striking the Balance Between Creativity and Data

Marketers today have access to more data than ever before, and as such it can be tempting to focus efforts entirely on numbers and insight. But the application of data is rarely the bedrock of a truly successful campaign—the best ads are always built on a strong creative idea.

Take Out-of-Home (OOH) as an example. It’s an impactful, increasingly digital medium, but that doesn’t mean brands can put out any old rubbish just because the numbers say it’ll work. They can have all the data and insight in the world, but without a creative execution they’re effectively paying for expensive wallpaper that won’t hold people’s attention.

But a creative idea with no foundation is equally inadequate. The intelligent use of data is mutually beneficial for both brands and consumers, allowing marketers to reach the right people while consumers are shown content that’s relevant, entertaining or useful. Good data sources can tell us who will see an ad, and when, as well as how they’ll engage with it—making it all-the-more frustrating to see poor OOH ads that clearly haven’t taken any of that into account.

Research, found that 73% feel they have the time to notice advertising on London Underground.

People driving past a screen on a motorway won’t have time to read more than a few words, yet too often brands opt for reams of text when designing roadside ads. Equally, we know people will take the time to stand and read ads on the London Underground, whether that’s in the train carriage or whilst they wait on the platform. Our Engagement Zone research, conducted in collaboration with Bournemouth University and COG Research, found that 73% feel they have the time to notice advertising on London Underground.

Perhaps more than in any other advertising channel the opportunity for brands to match their OOH creative to its native environment, using the data available to inform and inspire the campaign, is enormous.  For instance, our rich ABI and Taps data sources can tell us with incredible granularity who is likely to be looking at an ad at any given London Underground station at any given time of day on any day of the week.  Without this contextual insight the entire creative process risks going to waste—not only pouring money down the drain but doing a serious disservice to the medium.

Arguably the biggest problem is that data and creative teams work independently.  The creative team comes up with the campaign artwork but this may be at odds to the recommendations made by the data specialists.  And conversely the valuable insights the data teams – in whichever company they may sit – isn’t able to influence the campaign artwork so it is optimised for the channel and the environment.

That situation is changing for the better – and I’m seeing more collaboration every day on this exact issue. But not everyone in the industry is on the same page yet, and there’s work to be done. There’s a clear need for creative and data teams to work more closely, and a more collaborative approach would significantly improve campaign effectiveness.

An ad without a creative idea is expensive wallpaper, but one that ignores data and insight is merely art.

Richard Simkins

Creative Solutions Director at Exterion Media

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