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Does data diminish creativity?

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A number of us at Armadillo recently attended an interesting webinar, “Beyond Beauty: L’Oreal’s journey to Data Driven Creative”. As a company, we’re absolutely committed to the use of data across everything we do, so it was a great opportunity to see how other big brands tackle the same topic. 

Watching the webinar, it was great to see another company talking about how data accelerates creativity—something I firmly believe, and champion. But there are plenty of creatives that still feel like data is a hindrance rather than a help. So, I was inspired to explore the topic…

What’s the purpose of the creative?

If what you want to create is art, then it’s true that data might not be that relevant. However, if you want to make creative content—design, copy, concept—then data takes what you’re doing away from being simply artistic into being useful, relevant, and impactful. 

When you create something, there’s always a purpose. If you’re creating within any kind of marketing context, that might be to educate, inspire, inform, or engage. But ultimately, your end goal is to make a sale. 

Using data is a fundamental part of creating within this context. You could craft the most beautiful, lyrical piece of content, but if it has no impact on your intended audience, it’s not successful in achieving its purpose. The data tells you if you achieved what you set out to achieve, if you met or exceeded the results you were looking for, and if you generated any tangible value from what you created. 

Don’t fear the data

Creatives can be afraid that data will get in the way of a great campaign, or that the numbers won’t match up to the idea and promise of that campaign. 

And it absolutely can be disheartening to see a piece that you’ve worked on not generate the results you were looking for. But how much more disheartening would it be if your creative never generated great results? Or if you sometimes hit the nail on the head but never know why, or how to do it again?

When creatives embrace data, it allows us to see what worked, what didn’t, how the things we create turn into value, and what boundaries we can push. 

Wouldn’t you rather know if the great idea you had resonated? Data tells us that our intended audience of consumers found our creative engaging. Admiration from the industry and our peers is brilliant, but results from our true audience is what matters in the end. 

three female coworkers doing a high five at a desk
Instead of fearing data, see it as a collaboration.

Data validates creativity

If you did get the green light for something experimental, the data will validate whether or not it worked. Did it increase average spend or brand awareness? If it did, you have more evidence to support your next idea, or a continuation of this one, or a change to the framework. If it didn’t, you can dig deeper into the data to try and find out why. 

In-house or agency, the bottom line is always a factor.  

When you bring data into the mix, you can free yourself from some of these limits. Data enhances creativity by validating it. It takes the subjectivity away, it proves the return on investment, and it drives the conversation towards getting a result. 

Freedom within a framework

When you’re working within a data-driven framework, you have to stretch your creativity further. You come up with new ways to shine within that framework. Just like you can’t throw out all of the brand guidelines because you’ve had a cool idea, you can’t throw out the framework. If you’re creative enough, you can find a way to make that idea work within the boundaries you have. 

Data is inevitable

Whether you’re convinced by any of this or not, it’s still time for creatives to start embracing data. Our world is so connected, so tracked, and so digital that we have access to increasing amounts of data every day. If you’re not looking at it, you’re leaving a huge advantage on the table. 

Every agency is beholden to the bottom line. No matter how creative or inspiring your campaigns, ultimately our clients all need to make money. When you could be using data to drive your creativity to be the most effective it can be, leaving that information behind for fear that it will get in the way of ideas is not going to cut it. 

Data isn’t just the remit of the analysts and accountants. If we leave it with them because ‘it’s just numbers’, we give away the opportunity to analyse that data through a creative lens. 

If we take ownership of that data, we can not only build it into what we do, we can build stronger relationships between creatives and other disciplines, both internally and with our client partners.   

Data shouldn’t stifle creativity – when used right, it empowers it. 

—Natalie Howells

  • This article originally appeared here.

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