Data and Creativity : No Longer Distant Relatives

Marc Sanford, Chief Data Science Officer, GTB

Marc Sanford, Chief Data Science Officer, GTB

As the marketing world knows, conversations around MarTech have been dominated lately by the Cookiepocalypse (or death of third-party cookies) dialogue. So, I’d like to take a fresh and different approach to talk about the conversation…one where data that is created by the various platforms and data collection systems and related analytical approaches are more than a use of measurement, personalization, and an understanding of the business. Rather than talking about tracking mechanisms, I would like to posit that data and analytics are the most creative space in modern marketing and more closely related to the creative process than ever.

Data and creativity are typically not two terms that come into close contact with each other. However, with the rapidly changing marketplace around data, data technology, analytics applications, platforms, and data privacy and security, this has opened more room for creativity within the data space than ever before. And it also opens up the relationship of data to the creative generation process itself.

Data is fundamentally tied to brand expression (and creativity) at every level. To understand this connection, we need to understand what data is. Data is people. Data is behavior. Data is beliefs. Data is emotions. Data is culture. Data is brand. Data is communications. Data is interactions. Data is design. Data is language and images. Data is time. Data is health. Data is race, ethnicity, and demographics. But, most importantly, data is a way of becoming more human. It is a way of meeting people and understanding places we’ve never had the opportunity to know. In that manner, it is a way of overcoming biases and misconceptions. Data is a way of opening the mind. It is a way of opening a conversation.

Data fundamentally has become closer to us than at any other time in our history

Data fundamentally has become closer to us than at any other time in our history. From the computer to on-prem to cloud-based. From 1s and 0s to images, words, movements, biochemical markers, eye movements, physical movements, interactions, cultural and belief markers have all become data. We not only have data that represents the many facets of our world, but we also have analytical techniques to not only understand the world but to try and see into the future. We use simulation models to try and see around the corner or to alternate realities. We use visualization platforms to manifest the interpretation of data and insights to the masses (and executives). It is now at a point where nearly every person in the organization touches or makes use of data.

Because of this access and closeness of data and information, it is finding its way into new types of conversations. Even in the mythical (and sometimes highly regimented) creative processes, data and insights are used for inspiration. It is in this way that the use of data (regardless of the platform of origin) creates a way of seeing opportunities, of what is real and what is not. Data shouldn’t be seen as a constraint, but rather a way of understanding and investigation. At its core, data is a creative and brand expression compass. It is a way of supporting and testing ideas and approaches…it is wayfinding for strategies and storytelling. It reframes the conversation from ‘I think’ to ‘I know.'

Conducting work for an American automotive industry icon, we’ve started leveraging AI-based neurological eye-tracking within the creative process itself. We can start to see what triggers attention; we can start to know how formatting impacts the effectiveness of the creative and hypothesize about different creative elements based on neurological responses. We can then use complex and deep audience data to hypothesize about what to show to whom and when with the underlying knowledge of how creativity will be perceived before it goes into the market.  

Of course, data does not always represent reality… nothing is foolproof. There is much discussion about bias in data and various analytics techniques. Bias in data (or some analytical approaches) is very real and should be taken seriously. I recommend that every analytics professional (or any interested party) take the time to conduct their own research and ground themselves in this phenomenon within the data space.

Bringing the conversation back to MarTech platforms, I encourage marketing technology professionals to look beyond what the platform provides. The richness and variety of data sources within most organizations are fertile grounds for highly creative thinking. And that thinking is often best done when you have a diversity of minds sitting around the table.

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