Here’s a surefire way to crush the creative spirit? Say things like, “That’s a great idea, let’s test it.” Or, worse, “Let’s throw that adlob (ad like object) into testing and see what people think.” Data was the wet blanket on creative bravery. Safe wins, brave ideas get trashed. So you wonder why talk of data gathering extinguishes the sparkle from our brilliant creative teams’ eyes?

Now the world is different—data can be the elixir that sparks creative inspiration.

How? It starts with two words: Predictive Analytics. No longer is data confined to reporting results or attempting to measure motivation through exposure to creative ideas. It’s now about knowing people—our customers, our consumers—more precisely than ever before. This is based on highly complex statistical models and machine learning (sifting through hundreds of millions of rows of data) predicting who will be our most valued customer and consumer and the best way (i.e., where and when) to engage with them. Good for marketing in a highly personalized, mass precision world, but not exactly stimulating to creative folks, right?

Creative spark comes from taking this clear but somewhat sterile and emotionless picture of “who,” “where,” and “when” and enriching it with the deep human truths—the emotional layers where motivation resides and where the disruptive insight is revealed. This basket of information—insight at the core and behavioral data surrounding it—is where Data Telling is a feed for Human Storytelling, which incites creativity.

So what’s a 21st Century Marketer to do?

1. Let the Data Scientists and machines do the data heavy lifting. They like algorithms. (Seriously, they do.) They enjoy sifting through hundreds of potential analytical options. They can excise the Phantom Truths—the stuff that’s true and tempting but doesn’t really matter. And, they’re better at it than any marketer. They will deliver the Data Telling.

2. Get in on the hunt for the Disruptive Insight. Inspiration is revealed when the Disruptive Insight (i.e., the insight that can motivate a behavior change) is discovered and becomes the underpinning for the creative campaign. The search for this insight should include the Data Scientist, the Strategic Planner, the Feet on the Street Insighters, Creative Team, Account Teams and you. Make sure it begins with an Empathy Walk so everyone feels the insight.

3. Let the experts turn it all into Human Storytelling. Your agency partners do it all the time—it’s a muscle they exercise and are exquisite at flexing. They’ll get your stamp on it.

4. Incite collaborative creativity with a Co Lab. Invest a little. Surround the creative process in a dedicated offsite to harvest big ideas. Getting involved in the creative process will be the most fun you’ll have all year!

5. Kill adlob testing. You’ll be a better, braver marketer and a better friend to Creative.

  • Janet Winkler

    Janet Winkler is Group President of Publicis Healthcare Communications Group. Janet leads a team of inspired professionals who are motivated to drive growth for clients. More than ever that means disrupting the conventional and providing ideas and solutions that leverage technology, insights, data & analytics, and consulting services, and do so in an integrated way.

    • Kathy Delaney

      Kathy Delaney is Global Chief Creative Officer at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. Named one of the “Most Creative Women in Advertising” by Business Insider, her bold creative vision has helped make the agency an award-winning powerhouse in consumer wellness marketing.

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