AdLand’s New Superhero Duo: Data Detective & Curious Creative

We live in a technocratic age that has led to a debate with data & technology on the one end, and creative on the other. While creative doyens such as BBH’s John Hegarty state that data did not create any wealth, creativity did, men leading the business such as WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell have constantly reminded on the need for ‘math men’.

“This is fundamentally one side versus the other, missing the very core function and question on what our purpose should be,” remarked James Shoreland, Global Managing Director, Blue 449.

James Shoreland, Blue 449
James Shoreland, Blue 449

Speaking at the 10th Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, Mr Shoreland highlighted that data was all about reducing the risk in marketing and investment with better targeting, and reducing wastage by reaching the right people at the right time. “These words are music to the marketer’s years. Post the 2008-experience, this is exactly what they want to hear. Our real purpose however should not be about reducing risks but expanding opportunity,” he said.

The creative versus debate is not going anywhere, and the industry has acknowledged the need to work out how the technocratic age can create expansive opportunities. One lesson learnt is to stop “working in containers of the past” and take a step back to reinvent how an agency and marketer can work together.

For Mr Shoreland, this is divided in five clear steps that will eventually lead to the rise of a new superhero duo in the advertising and communication business – the data detective and the curious creative.

Five Steps To Data & Creative Team-Up
The first on his list is to acknowledge the conflict of interest in data and technology. He advises to then separate the data roles of extraction and execution. “Everything about data is about reducing the fear of failure. The first two steps will allow taking the fear away from the data detective,” explained Mr Shoreland.

The next task is to partner the data detective with the curious creative, who could be anyone from an account planner, to a creative strategist or of similar mindset who do not hesitate to experiment and explore.

“You should not ask data people on the solutions of tomorrow. They know the facts of today. Don’t put that pressure on them. That is for the team of creative and data. Much like there was the creative and art duo in advertising that would argue and fist it out to lead to clutter breaking solutions, the data and creative duo are the Batman and Robin of advertising,” he said.

He advised that the data and creative dup should never be more than “36 inches apart”. The objective is to work over a period of time to learn each other’s language and to test each other in positive and conflicting ways.

“Finally, institutionalize collaborative ways of working and create an open source hack or what we call the open co-create,” Mr Shoreland advised.

He quoted the examples of Diesel ads on Shazam and Tinder, and the Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ campaign where the brand took an insight and data point and flipped it to create a campaign, expanding its opportunities. The right way to match the two would not only effectively liberate data, but cultivate creativity.

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