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The Creative Collision

color collision

Data Science and Creative Advertising, the unlikely match  

In a nutshell

  1. Data science and creative advertising are important, but together can create something quite wonderful, unique and relevant.
  2. We need to think of a 'data science led’ creative process as incremental to the existing process, rather than replacing insight-led creative.
  3. Data scientists and creatives are quite a different breed of people, the nature of their work, how they think, their background and education results in a different skill set mindset.

In 1979, Joe Leedom was a science student at South Dakota State University when he helped make the very first batch of cookies-and-cream ice cream. It was a flash of an idea that came to Leedom after enjoying Oreos crumbled on top of a shop-bought ice cream. Although the official origins of the cookies-and-cream ice cream are still hotly debated, it’s fascinating to think about how these unlikely collaborations have been around for 40 years or more.  

Today these product collisions shape our modern-day consumption behavior. We flock to the shops to grab the latest Cadbury Jelly Tip Block or Whittaker’s-Lewis Road Chocolate Milk. The coming together of individually amazing products to create something that is better than the sum of its parts often feels like pure brilliance. A pivot on our proverbial consumption axis, leaving us thinking, why didn’t I think of that?! 

It was only after speaking with Jatinder Singh, Chief Data Officer of DDB North America, that a new realization struck me.  

We have a powerful collaboration hiding in plain sight, right here in our own marketing industry.  

Every year LinkedIn Learning conducts a large-scale study of over 660 million professionals and 20 million jobs to determine the top skills in demand. The top soft skill in demand globally is creativity. The study also shows the third most desired technical skill is analytical reasoning. It is no surprise, when you consider that combining these seemingly opposite disciplines can lead to powerful outcomes.  

Data science and creative advertising are important, but together can create something quite wonderful, unique and, well, relevant. Now, I do not mean that data science is not creative. I’m lucky enough to work with a data science team every day and they are some of the most creative problem solvers I have ever met. Equally, creatives certainly can identify an insight in a complex mess of information. However, the magic of these two disciplines coming together creates a new level of value and relevance in the marketing industry.  

So why is this, and what is so different from the traditional brand-led creative process? 

Speaking with Jatinder, his perspective was that we need to think of a ‘data science-led’ creative process as incremental to the existing process, rather than replacing insight-led creative. Data Science is another ingredient in the process, albeit a powerful one. However, a data-led approach to creative development brings a different set of benefits and capabilities. 

Speed and accuracy of the insight to fuel the creative process 

We are not short of data these days - in fact, it is becoming harder to make sense of how much we have. The millions of posts on social media, the complex decision-making process for people shopping online or even the rollercoaster of emotions we see in public sentiment. Seeing the patterns and finding the creative angle in this tangle can be time-consuming, and increasingly, there is a risk that we can miss the mark without pinpoint accuracy in the insight. A data-led approach, designed to curate the millions of data points, layer in sentiment, and find the bullseye insight helps springboard creative thinking, or as Jatinder said; “fuels the creative process”. 

Diversity within diversity 

These days, the approach of using cliché stereotypes based on overly simplistic demographics is archaic and quite frankly, inappropriate. We forget that even small groups of our community are just as beautifully diverse as our nation as a whole. Using a data-led approach can help make sense of diversity within diversity, get a greater level of understanding, and help overcome our unconscious bias. All enabling the creative idea to connect with people at a deeper level. 

New capability 

However, to foster a strong connection between the two disciplines requires new capability. Data scientists and creatives are quite a different breed of people, the nature of their work, how they think, their background and education results in a different skill set mindset. So, when coming together, there needs to be the capability to create a connection. TRA call this developing the ‘meaning-makers’, the storytellers, the translators. We often find this skill in strategy planners, but more and more are seeing this capability being developed in both disciplines. At minimum, organisations should look to create a process around building closer connection between these teams of data scientists and creatives. Collaborative briefing and analysis sessions along with creative validation against original data insight are just some points of connection to start with.  

So, in a time where our world is becoming increasingly complex, finding the creative angle requires just as much science as it does art. Now is the time to embrace the cookies and cream of marketing. A creative collision of data science and creative advertising, delivering something bigger and better than the sum of its parts. 

 

Shaun Fitzgibbon
Partner at TRA

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