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How Data and Creative can be BFFs

Data, data, data. There is an undertone in the industry today that seems to pit data and analytics against ‘big idea’ creative. This is a mistake. Market intelligence drives the discovery of insight, which in turn informs creative development. Research and Data isn’t a competitor to creative, it’s a companion. That said, it’s important to use existing research, focus group testing, and campaign reporting the right way.

Use data inventively

Market intelligence is a critical ingredient to making great advertising. And the way it’s used is a form of creativity itself. Sometimes the research on an audience reveals what they are used to seeing. Providing a clear vision of the “zig” so your executions can “zag.” For our lottery client, the data showed the top motivator for players was what they would do with the money they could win. It’s why most lottery ads show rich people antics. But, any story we told could never be as perfect as what the players imagined they would do with a big win. So we looked past that indicator to the second motivator: the thrill of play. There we found the bedrock of our campaign idea and the “It’s your ticket” campaign was born. The ads we made always featured the moment of play, something all players can experience. The campaign went on to drive sales to historic highs.


Look to focus groups for insights, not creative decisions

Consumer focus groups are far more useful for this type of exploration than for testing creative ideas. Walking out of a recent focus group session for our fast food client, a creative director colleague remarked how useful everything that group of consumers had said would be in developing the upcoming campaign. In all his years in advertising, this was the first time observing a group that probed for market truths, rather than testing creative. This seems crazy to me. In nearly every group I’ve seen testing competing campaign concepts, the group chooses the work most familiar to them. Often because it’s like something they’ve seen before. I advise against this type of testing. Why would a client, after going through the review process to choose the agency who is most able to give them the kind of original work that hasn’t been seen before, take that creative work into a group testing setting to vet out anything unfamiliar?

Don’t trade knowledge for reach

The reporting and validation that comes with targeted digital efforts can be very seductive. And the temptation is there to turn your back on mass reach, in favor of the trackability of these smaller, more surgical efforts. But the truth is the two approaches work together. I may be served a banner or pre-roll and then make a purchase that is credited to that exposure, but it’s unlikely it was the only reason I chose it. It’s through mass efforts that brands build their relevance. And consumers act upon targeted ads because the brand already has a perceived value. Seek balance between work that drives awareness and work that is specifically structured to drive transaction.

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