Wednesday, January 6, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Creativity Feeds The Data Beast (And Digital Killed The TV Star)

I started last year by talking about the balance between Art and Science in digital marketing and I feel the need to revisit the topic slightly from a different vantage point; that of Data and Creativity.

2009 saw the explosion of data as the primary driver behind the growth of our business, or at least the defense of dollars that we witnessed in the face of the great recession. Creativity seemed to take a second position to data because data is something that can be proven whereas creativity is far too subjective. 2010 is headed directly into the arms of data once again with more and more companies focusing on ways to harvest and utilize behavioral data, whether it is social graph or real-time and-recency driven. I don’t argue with the rationale for this direction; data is our strongest weapon as we battle the non-believers (whoever they actually may be) that feel TV is still a better medium for advertisers. What I request is that we not bypass creativity completely because creativity is what actually provides us with better access to data and can help us assume the top position for marketing dollars.

The majority of creativity being applied to digital marketing is being applied to the innovation behind the data systems. I ask that we start to applaud and praise the creativity that can be applied to the front-end, which the users actually see, guaranteeing they truly engage with the message. All the data in the world can tell me what I already know; that users are flocking to social media. The data also tells me that interaction rates are low but that digital media can indeed influence awareness and drive consideration and intent. What I want to see is more innovative and creative ways being applied to the actual interface of the media we provide and the marketing that we interject. I want to see more refined, polished, yet engaging executions that grab the attention of the consumer and get them to react in some way.

The issue I see at hand is two-fold. First off, in 2011 there is a serious issue facing our business that the government may indeed legislate the way that companies can place and use cookies. If that happens, then the data-driven revolution is dead in its tracks. The second thing is that our budgets will continue to grow only if we can prove that we drive a higher impact on awareness and consideration than TV and that is still a hard battle to fight.

Creativity gets attention, and getting attention is what drives marketing. Attention creates interaction and interaction is what creates data. Data is what is driving our business, so the simple fact is that we need more creativity in order to feed the data beast and continue to see growth in our business.

My hope for 2010 is that creativity can at least regain an equal footing to the world of data. I have to admit that I am part of the issue here in that for many years I told clients, “Just get us a bunch of ad units so we can optimize. They don’t all have to be killer, just get us volume to work with”. That does a disservice to creativity and I apologize. We need to respect the audience a bit more and try to show them good work. We need to value each interaction and show them that we want to provide them with good information. We need to put our best foot forward and give them something of value so they respond and we can prove the value of the medium for marketers.

Simply put; no more “punch the monkey” or “dancing aliens”. No more “X10 cameras” or “mortgage rates are lower” ads. We need more intelligent thought applied to the work we put forth and we need to be sure that we support that work so it is exposed to the largest, targeted audience it can. It doesn’t have to be an ad that skims along the page and intrudes upon my experience, but it can be successive story-lines or integrated into content. It can be creative without being annoying.

So for 2010, let’s put on our thinking hats and spit out some creative work that will prove once and for all that digital marketing is a worthy combatant for TV. The “sight, sound, and motion” argument doesn’t work anymore for me, what about you?

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