The collision of data and creativity – by Media.Monks’ Aws Al-Awamleh

The entrance of generative AI into the global stage has shown that there are two types of people in the world: those who believe data and creativity would have an unhappy marriage and those who think it’s a match made in heaven. Some people may (still) have a hard time talking about data and creativity in the same sentence, but these two worlds have already collided. The rise of digital innovations like AI reinforces the notion that data and creativity can go hand in hand.

The rapid adoption of these technologies means that brands must get into a mindset of bringing these two disciplines together. This is something that we have been doing for a while now—and no, AI isn’t replacing jobs, nor is data taking the spark out of creative work. Rather, it is enabling us to help our partners automate repetitive tasks to free up time for creativity, drive up efficiencies and do more with their marketing budgets, and build human-centred brands. In other words, data has the power to supercharge creativity, and brands and consumers alike can reap the benefits.

 There’s more to data than just numbers. 

The only way to build a human-centred brand is by taking a sincere interest in your audiences, which requires data. Interestingly, questions such as “who are your customers, what do they care about, and what do they need from you?” can’t simply be answered with numbers. Instead, you need to conduct qualitative research to understand your audiences, and make sure to integrate this data early on in the brand-building process. Gather qualitative data about what consumers think, want and need in order to decide on things such as target groups, communications framework, and touchpoints. Let these insights feed into every step of establishing your brand—only by bringing your audiences in from the get-go, you can become a brand that’s truly centred around people.

This underscores the importance of the industry’s current shift towards first-party data and the growing recognition around zero-party data, which is data that consumers intentionally share with a brand. To get your hands on zero-party data, create a brand environment that not just speaks to your audiences, but also makes it clear what value they will get out of sharing their most meaningful data. If people trust your brand enough to know that they will get better, more personalised experiences in return, that’s when they’ll proactively share information—and outstanding creative customer experiences that people actually want to engage with are key to this exchange.

Zero-party data is seen as the holy grail of data because it cements a consumer’s trust in a brand (unlike third-party data), and is pivotal to continue targeting in digital media once third-party cookies have fully been phased out. Also, by leaning on data provided by others, you’re not genuinely taking an interest in your audiences. Rather, it’s important to open a dialogue and bring consumers into your well-crafted brand spaces, such as your dotcom, social media or apps. It’s about going back to the basic rules of marketing and understanding where your brand fits in with the audience.

Instead of exclusively turning to the metrics that are given to us, we have to set ourselves up in a way that we can learn what’s working and why. This isn’t just a matter of dropping data on the creative’s plate. Rather, data-driven creativity should be iterative with the aim to create a continuous feedback loop of data that informs the creative conceptualization. This way, you can improve content on the fly. Such an ‘always-on’ content production model continuously incorporates learnings in different stages of the marketing cycle to improve results while lowering costs.

On the question of how, start by using the qualitative research you’ve gathered to make important decisions—target audience, channels and content—and establish an airtight strategy. Then, bring in quantitative data by implementing a measurement framework across touchpoints and setting up a feedback loop for ongoing optimisation purposes. What you’ll get in return is a much more detailed understanding of what creative work resonates with your audiences, and therefore the opportunity to increase the effectiveness of your campaign—bonus points for doing so while it’s live!

Support your creative with insights for campaign success.

Data and creativity are complementary forces that work together to achieve a brand’s business and marketing goals—while data can help inspire new ideas, validate concepts and optimise performance, creativity can help to bring those ideas to life in a way that resonates with customers and creates a strong emotional connection. Despite a lot of effort going into channel optimisation, we see campaign performance primarily being driven by the creative, and so it helps to understand how well one asset (or asset variation) will perform compared to another. That’s why it’s important to fuel your creative with qualitative and quantitative insights—and that’s not where data and creativity’s partnership ends.

Creative input should not stop at the initial delivery: by pairing a data-driven production process with templates through technologies like Dynamic Creative Optimization, brands have the opportunity to continually improve the performance of their campaign in flight. In other words, by extracting data from (live) creative assets, you can ensure the next (automated) iterations are even more informed and better-suiting for your audiences. By testing, validating and learning, you move beyond the point of being data-driven and into the territory of data creators—that’s how you really get to the truth of your brand and put people (back) at the centre of your brand, right where they belong.

By Aws Al-Awamleh, Senior Strategist at Media.Monks