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Big Data: A ‘cure’ or ‘curse’ for creativity?

Big Data may be an organizations’ priority for building smarter campaigns but complex databases and data projects can take years to come to fruition. In an increasingly competitive and cluttered online environment, marketers are challenged with being more creative than ever before, as well as being data gurus and understanding “big data”. But this begs the question: does big data have a place in today’s creative process, or is it just killing it?

Big data – a cure for creativity

Some of the world’s best creative campaigns have been developed on the foundations of Big Data. When BA launched their ‘Mosaic’ campaign in 2012, they didn’t utilize large data sets from the beginning; instead they used phase 1 of the campaign (a large-scale analysis of customer sentiment) to generate the data to drive phase 2 of the campaign (an integrated online and offline customer sentiment campaign, targeted to BA’s executive club audience). In the 1st 6 months the campaign increased acquisitions for BA by 2.7% (18,000 new members). You could argue it was the creative that drove extra sales for the British based airline; however the real hero of the story is the data. Without the initial customer intelligence to drive an emotive campaign, the impact would have been lost entirely. In addition, metrics such as these, derived from Big Data, offer marketers real benchmarks to measure and progress their campaigns.

British Airways Mosaic

Whilst the BA campaign was a global initiative, Big Data offers more scope for campaign localization, tailored creative assets for target markets all around the world. In doing this, marketers can leverage greater engagement opportunities because of the personalization value, albeit not at consumer level. Of course, an organization’s brand strategy needs to accommodate international markets before this can be considered. But the crux of the issue is: with Big Data, marketers can make considered and creative in-roads into global territories.

The last and probably most crucial cure for creativity is using Big Data as an analytical catalyst to drive creative campaigns. One could argue that Apple never approached their classic silhouette campaign for their 3rd generation iPod based on terabytes of data. But they still sold 2 million units in the first year alone. So why should we all be using Big Data now? The answer is because you can and because data provides quantitative intelligence to form creative campaigns. Wouldn’t a brand refresh be more successful if based on data collected about your customer base? Their aspirations? Their buying behavior?


Big data – a curse for creativity

Just like online and the perception that email is dead, the offline world has exactly the same perception when it comes to print. Why? Because it’s costly, it’s time consuming and online provides a more agile outlet for creativity, not to mention the scope for ROI. With online ad spend increasing (up 17.5% to a six month high*), marketers are spending more to keep up with the multi-screen race to deliver consistent consumer messaging across channels. Why then, with the rising costs of print and the increase in online spend would marketers and creatives go to the expensive of layering Big Data intelligence with their ad campaigns, and more importantly, can their budgets stretch to it?

Die-hard designers will argue that creativity is subjective: a conceptual art form that can’t be shaped or quantified. To some extent they’re right. Recently awarded at the 2013 Clio Awards, Ray Ban’s print campaign to celebrate “75 Years of Legend” is emotive, passionate and creative, and it was also developed without Big Data. 7 art-directed photographs were released as part of the campaign which depict Ray Ban customers as ‘legends’ for buying into the brand’s iconic eye-wear. The campaign is testament to the fact that creative campaigns, which drive brand awareness and conversions, can be created, all without the need of any data.

Ray Ban

So what’s the answer? Curb Big Data in favor of creativity, or jeopardize design for the sake of consumer intelligence? The answer is to do both. The impact of data on marketing results is already yielding positive results with 52% of organizations claiming that new business opportunities have been identified through its use**. But this data doesn’t need to remain in a silo for online use only. Imagine that Ray Ban ad targeted to core consumer segments which featured tailored narratives dependent on a segment’s buying behaviour, their goals, and their demographic. Would it have been a stronger campaign? In terms of creativity, maybe not, but in terms of measurability, definitely.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

*Source: eMarketer
**Source: Smart Insights