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Must Creativity Kowtow to Big Data?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Hello Big Data, we meet again.

The marketing and advertising community is still all a-buzz over the leaps and bounds big data has taken over the past couple of years. Retailers, marketers, and designers have so much data, they don't know where to start and what to do with it. All the while, there are those whom are adamantly against using such Big Data, and relying on the skill of their creative teams.

Is there a winner between these philosophies?

History would say no. Let us call to mind David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach. They had fundamentally different approaches to advertising. Ogilvy cut his teeth on research and content, while Bernbach was all about art and producing solid, appealing, creative. Ogilvy would have advertising pieces that had paragraphs of copy, and Bernbach let pictures do the talking. Ogilvy figured that if the copy was good, the consumer would read it. Bernbach decided that his group would try to win the consumer over by making them relate to the creative. Both, were right on.

Can we not compare the rising fight between creativity and big data with Ogilvy's research and copy and Bernbach's creativity first approaches? We think so.

Marketing agency Eleventy Group recently wrote a post about 5 statistics that show marketers are behind the curve of data marketing. Some of the statistics they pointed out were relevant, like although 80% of retailers have heard of big data, only 47% know how to implement it, to the not-so-relevant, like 5% of marketers own a statistics text book (sidenote- we own three).

Now let's frame the argument- Eleventy marketing group offers data marketing services, so naturally those marketers who do not focus on data marketing will be shown in a negative light. However, the research highlighted here doesn't show the lack of use of "big data" no more than it shows the severe lack of emphasis of research and data that as always plagued our industry.

The shift for "big data" is our industry attempting to over-correct.

Big data makes audience targeting safe, while creative makes advertising interesting. Creatives rely on intuition, while data marketers rely on data collection, algorithms, and predictive modeling. 

We need balance.

If creativity and big data can get along, everyone is going to come out a winner.


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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