The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Careful. Your Data Is Showing …

The big conversation in marketing right now is around data.

So it should be, it’s insanely valuable and important.

But the irony is, while it can absolutely help us have deeper understanding about our audiences behaviour and habits – information that can lead to more powerful and valuable creativity – it’s alarming how many companies who claim to be experts in this field express themselves in ways that are the opposite of it.

Here are 2 ads I saw in Cannes …


You think that is going to convince people the data and technology you have is going to lead to better work?

You think that represents the language of your audience?

Sure, I know it’s Cannes and so there is a certain sort of person who is attending there at that moment – but they’re still bloody human.

Quite frankly, this is more an ad for celebrating ‘the old way’ rather than the new.

As Martin and I said in our presentation – if companies think creativity can be reduced to an engineering problem, then they don’t understand how society actually works.

Sure … you want consistency if you’re doing surgery.

Or making rockets.

Or producing food.

But society as a whole, is a mish-mash of complications and hypocrisy.

A group where their passions extend to far more than what they transact with … but how it integrates with their life.

Their fashion. Their music. Their games. Their language and imagery. Their context.

If you remove this from the process, you are simply creating the answer you want, not the answer that actually stands a chance of moving cultural behavior and attitudes for the long term, not just the short.

Or said another way, making brands successful in ways culture wants to stick with.

As I said, data has a huge and valuable role to play in all this.

I’m fortunate to have an extremely good data partner at R/GA … someone who not only knows what she’s doing, but appreciates it means nothing if it doesn’t help create better work.

And that’s the thing … great data doesn’t want the spotlight.

I see too much work where the brief seems to have been ‘show this data point’.

Or worse, too many briefs where it is the data point.

Great data – like great PR – is, in a lot of ways, invisible.

It liberates creativity rather than dictates it.

Revealing opportunities to think laterally not literally.

Helps you make work that reaches audience in more powerful ways.

Whether that’s where you play or how you play.

Put simply, data is an incredibly important part of modern marketing but – and this is where many people fall down – it can’t do it all.

It needs help to help make great work.

It can guide … it can reveal … it can lead … it can do so much, but it can’t do everything.

For data to truly show its full potential, it needs the nuances of culture added to it. Not purely for scalability, but for resonance.

As I’ve said many times, we need to stop looking to be relevant and start wanting to be resonant.

Making work that feels it was born from inside the culture, not from an observer.

Or said another way, work that doesn’t patronise, condescend or bore people.

Are you listening IBM and Neilsen?

Data with culture opens up more possibilities for creativity.

Allowing ideas to grow and go in places we might never have imagined.

Ideas that feel so right to the audience rather than explain why they should feel that way.

18 Comments so far
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what the fuck is that fucking shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

for once im not talking about your post but those fucking posters.

Comment by andy@cynic

I know … aren’t they the absolute worst. And at Cannes. That is how far things have fallen.

Comment by Rob

if these are the sort of shit ads we are teaching ai to learn from, we have just destroyed the threat of tech fucking us over. what a load of fucking shit. whoever made and approved this bollocks needs putting out their fucking misery.

Comment by andy@cynic

Skynet is shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by Pete

I’m just impressed you are talking about AI. Hahaha.

But you’re right … I even wrote about this very thing [though about life, rather than ads] here:

Comment by Rob

One of the reasons why data is so badly used by agencies and clients is that the people in charge of it are rarely data scientists but analysts with impressive titles.

Comment by Pete

Marketing scientists perhaps?

Comment by George

Hmmmmmmn …

Comment by Rob

Excellent post Robert. I particularly like your point about great data being invisible but leads to work that is felt by the audience. I will “borrow” that.
The industry ads at Cannes are embarrassingly bad. Though it does indicate a shift in marketing leadership to be more focused on attacking audiences than caring about them. It was always a selfishly driven industry but at least they used to pretend they cared.

Comment by George

I should point out this situation with data is almost exclusively tied to the marketing industry. What you describe as powerful use of powerful data is something I see here everyday. No data spying jokes please.

Comment by George

Sadly I think you’re right George. We have got so focused on ‘transaction’ we are not sowing the seeds for sustainability and loyalty. Always taking rather than also preparing for tomorrow … so you end up having to spend more just to stand still.

Of course part of this is because the average tenure of a marketing head is less than 2 years, so they are only focused on themselves and make decisions accordingly … but the great irony is that in their quest for success, they undermine the long term health and viability of the business.

Turning a brand into a commodity for short term gain is not the best business plan … and yet this is what gets rewarded time and time again.

Comment by Rob

As somebody at Cannes said “Learning from for-profit research vendors is a dumb way to learn about creativity’s possibilities.’

Comment by John

Of course you chose something Martin said. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Lots for me to borrow here thank you. Payback for my one good line about zoos etc.
I left my last place largely because data was becoming the answer rather than the tool. You know, precision, perfect timing.
I always like that point about the first Matrix, it was a perfect paradise, but failed because human beings are hardwired to find perfection boring. It’s the messiness and struggle that actually makes us who we are.
And as for those ads, the Cannes pun is particularly hideous.

Comment by Northern

I like it when you write career destroying posts. Not because I want you unemployed (but only for a Jill and Otis) but because it’s stuff the industry pretends isn’t happening and you force it to the surface.

Comment by DH

Companies have become so obsessed with big data and collecting data that i’d question whether they give a shit about actual consumer nuance at all anymore, versus growing the “buckets” they heave all their endless spreadsheets into.

Comment by Age

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