Peter Denby, Co-founder at Hyper Group



Opposites Attract

Blur or Oasis? Tea or coffee? Beach or countryside? These choices are seemingly binary, a myth perpetuated by popular culture. The same could be said for creativity or data when applied to marketing.

It’s true, those who excel with creative and data often look, act and communicate differently. This creates a barrier to pursuing a coordinated approach to the two disciplines, which many agencies and brands don’t know how or don’t have the desire to overcome.

For those that have the courage and ability to harness the combined power of creativity and data, rich pickings await.

In my mind the most effective marketing harnesses creativity and data as one coherent whole, coming together to stimulate the intended outcomes for brands, be that perception and favourability, sales, lifestyle change or any other objective.

Creative on its own can draw gasps from consumers who agree that a piece of marketing looks visually stunning. But without understanding the target audience, reaching them in contextually relevant moments and then evaluating the impact, it remains a beautiful but expensive artistic endeavour.

Cutting edge data science and AI can be admired as a standalone exercise. However, on its own there is little chance of creating the kind of emotional connection required to inspire consumers into action.


What we can Learn from Manchester United

To help bring the relationship between creativity and data to life, let’s compare them to another classic duo, ex Manchester Utd midfielders Paul Scholes and Roy Keane.

Scholes was lauded for his creativity, incisive passing and having a picture in his mind that opponents simply couldn’t compete with. Keane was renowned as being the fulcrum around which his teammates created chances and scored bags of goals. He had superb technical skills yet was robust in the tackle.

Keane gave Scholes a canvas to display his creative skills. He provided room, offered direction and removed distraction.

Creativity and data operate in a similar way. Without the work undertaken by data to steer creativity into the areas where it can be most potent, time and effort are wasted and results often fail to materialise.


How Data Supports Creativity

Customer Insight

The first step in developing marketing communications that truly connect with consumers is to understand how those people behave, what they feel and their future intentions.

Data analytics helps us with this. Be that mining large data sets of past behaviour, drawing insight from consumer research or modelling what they’re likely to do next.

Using rich visual personas and dashboards helps data people bring their insights to life and tell the necessary stories that spark the imagination of creatives to develop compelling creative and content for specific audiences.


Hyper Personalisation

Techniques such as affinity analytics can be used to understand the relationships between customers and products, creating customer need states. Armed with these insights, marketers can use creative to talk to each individual consumer is the most relevant and useful way possible, significantly improving the chances of motivating the consumer to act.


Real-time Marketing

We’ve now reached an era where analytics can be run at huge scale, in real-time. This opens the door for rich experiences to be served to consumers, whenever and wherever they interact with a brand.

For example, if an individual is willing to identify themselves via their mobile after walking into a clothing store, the brand has the opportunity to recall everything they know about the consumer, including their past purchases, online product browsing and preferences, to deliver an enjoyable visit, one which results in the consumer achieving exactly what they set out to.


Measurement & Optimisation

With budgets under severe pressure, understanding exactly how different creative treatments performed for different audiences, across every media, at different times, is vital. Data analytics allow for this granular understanding, which should then be used to optimise spend for any future activity.


Bringing Creativity & Data to Life

We’re now seeing some fantastic examples of brands marrying data and creativity for real business results. Here’s a selection that really impressed me.


Client – Black & Abroad

Agency – FCB/Six

Campaign – Go Back to Africa

Synopsis – a data-driven, pan-African tourism campaign for Black & Abroad that turns a racial slur into an empowering call to action




Client – Burger King

Agency – FCB New York

Campaign – Whopper Detour

Synopsis – Burger King offered people 1-cent Whoppers – if they ordered via the brand’s app and near a McDonald’s restaurant




Client – Spotify

Agency – In-house

Campaign – Wrapped

Synopsis – Data driven summary of indivdual listening trends, with amusing insights used in ad campaigns



Your Secret Weapon

How do you emulate these fine examples? First the bad news. Simply sticking creatives and data people together in a room and hoping they produce incredible work won’t cut it. Their minds work differently and finding common ground will be a struggle.

What’s required are people with the right combination of skills to knit the two disciplines together, to act as an intermediary and help combine them for maximum commercial impact.

These people will demonstrate left and right brain thinking. They will excel in listening and empathising with both parties. They will be skilled at steering discussions in the direction needed to reach great outcomes. And their top-class communications skills will allow them to clearly articulate how both sides played a key role in producing outstanding work.

Account people and Planners often fit the mould. These people should be treasured and seen to be just as vital to your success as the creative and data people themselves.

Agencies and brands who successfully harness creative and data talent, and who recognise and deploy people with the skills to bring the specialities together, have a distinct and sustainable advantage over their competition and will reap the rewards of more powerful work, which contribute to greater customer delight, loyalty and value than ever before.