Creativity Still Matters in the Age of Data

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The best creative has always been driven insights. In our field, they have a lot of names. Sometimes we call them truths. Sometimes they’re “one thoughts,” “single minded ideas” or “human truths.” Sometimes, we just say data.

Speaking on a panel at Advertising Week’s ADARA Stage at Time’s Center, Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction, said the definition of “creative” has changed. “I don’t know if I even consider banner ads creative anymore. The truly big creative ideas are the things that differentiate brands and make them go beyond monetary gains,” Kleinberg said.

However, that good creative is informed by data does not mean that all creative is good.

“There are places where insights and measurement do get ahead of the curve to inform the creative,” said Erin Rech, Senior Vice President of Digital Innovation & Investment at UM, “but there is a lot of room for improvement in that realm.”

And this could be why many in the ad industry think ad-blocker use is on the rise – a claim that people on stage took issue with. On one side of that argument are those who say content isn’t nearly as relevant as it should be because data isn’t being used to target individuals well enough. On the other side are those who have dived into the data of ad-blocking.

Tamara Alesi, Managing Partner of Integrated Strategic Planning at MediaCom, says ad blocking really isn’t prevalent. “It’s something like nine or twelve percent of consumers and they’re mostly young men who do a lot of online gaming,” she said. And that’s a market that’s typically easy to find.

As a CEO of a creative ad agency, it may come as a surprise that Kleinberg doesn’t mind ad-blockers. “I think there’s an opportunity for ad-blockers to become a boon for the business,” he said. “It pushes us to create more relevant, entertaining stuff.” His agency is exploring hyper-personalized video – the kind of ads that use your personal data and real name to address you directly – to combat them. Privacy debates aside, at least it’s an adventurous idea.

On the topic of how to get data and creative to play nice together, Jeffrey Rossi, Global Director of Business Marketing at Spotify, said we need to get smarter. “Everyone’s scared to lose business,” he said. “But if we bring more people to the table and create more transparency, we’ll mitigate that risk.”

Rech thinks publishers should step up to the creation table too. “They should know best as to what’s going to perform on their platform,” she said. “They should be able to help and say what will work. I would love more input. It’s harder, yes, but it pays off.”

Kleinberg illustrated this point from an agency perspective, as well. “The best creative insight is as likely to come from a seasoned copywriter in the shower as a spreadsheet,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s about bringing everything to the table to leverage the best of what you’ve got.”

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