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Creativity and Data: The New 21st Century Paradigm

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 22/02/2016 Advertising Week

By John Snyder, Grapeshot, CEO
As a Brit in America, Super Bowl Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year.  In a fragmented world, there still is nothing like the Big Game to bring the country as well as the entire globe together.  Like many, I tune in as much for the commercials as the actual gridiron contest.  Because I watched the CBS broadcast this year, I actually missed "Dream" the latest iteration of the ongoing KFC Colonel Sanders reboot with former SNL star Norm MacDonald.   Reason being was that the 30-second spot actually aired during the CBS digital stream of the game.  That didn't stop it from blowing up on social media and all the post-game chatter as one of the public's favorite Super Bowl ads.   The fact that a major brand was able to stir up so much exposure and engagement with digital ads instead of in-game spots is an important indication.  It really shows how much our world has changed and the increasingly dominant importance of digital platforms in reaching consumers.
The programmatic revolution is one of the main engines pushing this new paradigm.  And since we're on the topic of Super Bowl creativity, this is a good time for me to discuss how digital is fundamentally changing the lives of creative people in advertising.  Being a creative person in advertising used to be fairly straightforward.  Come up with a blockbuster campaign anchored by a pool of clever TV spots, supplemented by some print ads and banners and call it a day.  But in this new era of programmatic media where data-driven marketing is in vogue, creative people are now faced with the opportunity of employing data for their benefit.  Yes, it does sound oxymoronic to place data and creative together as complementary thoughts as all the reactionaries will have you believe that programmatic will actually sound the death knell for creativity.
In actuality, programmatic technology fueling data-driven marketing will in fact spark a creative rebirth.   The ability to collect multitudes of consumer signals from all platforms and directions and organize them into a deeper, more sophisticated--not to mention accurate--view of every stripe of consumer will actually help creatives do their jobs better.  Who in their right minds would differ with that concept?
Back in the pre-programmatic days going all the way back to the dawn of advertising, creatives have used incomplete, sometimes even vague, notions of who their target audiences were to craft campaigns aimed to inspire, engage and ultimately incite purchase.  Imagine how much fun they'll have and how much more successful they will be when their storytelling genius can be activated and informed by precise behavioral and demographic knowledge.  We now can apply data to pinpoint the actual moment that people are auto shopping and serve them relevant and compelling messages about model features and financing options.
With this the case, the last thing that we in the digital ad community need to be doing is striking undue fear in the hearts of nervous creatives that data and programmatic is the devil incarnate.  We need to start promoting the truth, which is that data and technology will allow them to continue to flourish but with an updated toolkit.  The key is not to overwhelm them with intimidating jargon and processes.  Agencies should be very careful about bringing creatives along steadily and allow them to grow their confidence gradually.
This is an imperative, not a luxury.  Because in the blink of an eye, we are going to find our industry at a place where television and the much-hyped Internet of Things will also be powered by data-driven programmatic technology and future Super Bowl ads are going to be as hyper-targeted and relevant as digital ads.  The ability to adjust creative on the fly and generate an army of different iterations for different consumers will be the currency that drives the age of personal marketing.  Convincing creatives that technology and data represent a golden opportunity to strengthen brand relationships with consumers should be the gospel. In a world where digital advertising can at times be accused of alienating the consumer with broad-brush retargeting, tailored creative execution that is both personal and relevant can excel in both entertaining and delighting the consumer.  So lets stop with the misinformation and false propaganda and embrace the magic of creative in the age of programmatic.

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