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Data or Creativity: Which is More Important in Advertising?

The right side of our brain is home to creativity and intuition while the left side is systematic and analytical. People tend to use one side more dominantly than the other, but only a half-wit would be willing to part with the non-dominant side of his or her brain.

What does this have to do with advertising?

Glad you asked.

Advertising resembles the human brain in that there are two lines of thought surrounding the industry: data and creativity.

Which is more foundational for advertising?

It depends on whom you ask. Analysts and numbers folks don’t trust the subjectivity of creative works any more than copy writers and graphic designers trust the impersonal nature of data.

Where should the focus be? There are benefits and downsides to each.

Benefits of Data-Driven Advertising
Data reports what happened, shows trends, and reveals numerically how an ad performed, who responded to it, and what actions resulted.

With more and more advertising dollars moving to digital formats, data collection has become increasingly streamlined. Most digital platforms, like Facebook and Google, collect data automatically, making it available to users who choose to access it. This data reveals a great deal about consumers and allows analysts to target audiences who are in the market for a company’s product or service with precision.

In addition to informing target verticals and audiences, digital data provides insight on consumer behavior:

  • What search terms did they use?
  • What calls to action did they follow?
  • Where did they spend time on a website?
  • How much time did they spend on the website?
  • What interests them?
  • Where did they see the ad they responded to?
  • What time of day did they respond?
  • What do they do for a living, and what is their annual household income?

Essentially, data answers questions about who, what, when, and where without addressing the more subjective question of why. Digital data provides the consistency of precision and predictability to help marketers better understand consumer preferences, despite the dynamic environment that produces it. In turn, this data can be used to make adjustments to improve the overall performance of an ad.

Downsides of Data-Based Advertising
In a world run strictly by data, advertisers would (theoretically) produce identical ads because the data would be the same. Data-only advertising would result in non-distinct dystopian uniformity. It would be a robotic presentation of facts without the context of a story. There would be no variety, no personality, and no surprise.

While extreme, this scenario emphasizes the contrast between data and creativity.

Benefits of Creativity in Advertising
Creativity brings ideas to life. It distinguishes people from robots and engages them on an emotional level. In advertising, creativity is what sets a company apart from competitors. It’s what makes an ad memorable. It’s what keeps a brand top of mind.

If you’ve been alive long enough, you can probably still recite what’s on a Big Mac or finish the phrase: You’re in good hands with ________. You remember those things as a result of creativity, not just data, because you remember it whether or not you were the target audience.

Creativity in advertising also provides entertainment. How many people do you know who watch the Super Bowl for the commercials rather than the game itself? There’s a reason those ad spots are so expensive.

Creativity is a means of differentiation.

Car dealerships face this challenge more than other retailers simply because they have the same inventory as the dealership in the next town. What makes people who live between the two choose one dealership over the other? The products are the same. The prices are the same. The manufacturer’s warranty is the same. The difference can be creative advertising.

In addition to creating distinctions, creativity also evokes:

  • Empathy as demonstrated in The Salvation Army’s Doing the Most Good
  • Connection as demonstrated in Capital One’s What’s in Your Wallet?
  • Inspiration as demonstrated in Home Depot’s Let’s Do This
  • Motivation as demonstrated in Nike’s Just Do It
  • Familiarity as demonstrated in Folger’s Best Part of Waking Up
  • Emotion as demonstrated in Proctor and Gamble’s “Thanks, Mom” campaign during the Olympics
  • Surprise as demonstrated in Snickers’ You’re Not You When You’re Hungry
  • Attention as demonstrated in Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Downsides of Creativity-Driven Advertising
In an advertising world run strictly by creativity, advertisers would take subjective shots in the dark. Ads would contain superficial beauty or humor with little meaning and even less information. In the words of Steve Babcock, former Chief Creative Officer at VaynerMedia, “Creativity without data is just art.”

How Data and Creativity Complement Each Other
In the rest of the quote from Steve Babcock, he sums up the partnership between data and creativity well. “Creativity without data is just art. But data without creativity is neglect.” As any advertiser or marketing manager would tell you, both data and creativity are essential for optimal success.

More data brings more understanding. More understanding provides a greater context for storytelling. Storytelling creates a meaningful and memorable customer experience. Meaningful customer experiences provide more data, and so the cycle continues.

It’s creativity that draws new connections between data points, and data provides answers to the A/B testing of creative. Data helps to refine creative ideas. Creativity offers new solutions and combinations for gathering and applying data.

Data is the Ying to creativity’s Yang. The two make each other better.

Dynamic Creative Optimization
Innovative technology incorporates data and creativity into one dynamic tool. Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) enables a user to enter a variety of images, headlines, and messaging into the platform (Google or Facebook, specifically). Based on the data the AI gathers, it adjusts the combinations of creative for the grouping that performs best.

The Warren Douglas Advertising Strategy for Premium Brands
Warren Douglas Advertising is a full-brained agency. We have team members whose passion is developing creative ideas and team members who are driven by data, understand data-collecting technology, and filter through the noise of any excess data to find a pinpointed interpretation. Beyond creativity and data, our people specialize in understanding premium brands and sincerely want to help businesses succeed.

Ultimately, we help premium brands reach the next level with well-rounded advertising campaigns. To find out more about how Warren Douglas can help your premium brand, reach out via email or schedule a conversation using the tool at the bottom of your screen.

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