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Is creativity jeopardized in the data-driven advertising industry? – by Waseem Yakdi

Waseem Yakdi is CEO of Zia Creative Network

By Waseem Yakdi, CEO of Zia Creative Network

Waseem Yakdi, CEO of Zia Creative Network

Today, the social media insights tell exactly which handbag is sold to which 25-year-old female with an interest in shoes.

I feel nostalgic and envy for an era I couldn’t witness, a time when creative work was printed out on solid boards and stood to people’s attention. But who knew if the billboard was successful in selling Coca-Cola? Or if the print ad really moved the needle in convincing people to buy a Jaguar over a Mustang. There was actually no way of knowing – and, by not knowing, ad men like Don Draper could continue to sell their performance, and sell the creative that may not have necessarily driven sales, but that may have instead stimulated the imagination of the people.

In today’s digital-paced world, data makes the rules, which is why brands are increasingly turning to tech-enabled advertising agencies. Before the advent of social media and digital marketing, there was a mystery attached to every Ad campaign that offered no measurement of sales conversion. But today, this mystery is ended as now the social media insights tell exactly which handbag is sold to which 25-year-old female with an interest in shoes. But are those metric-driven campaigns giving creativity enough space to breathe?

The advertising agencies very well know that catchy content can prove to be the most effective, but they also cannot ignore the fact that they are in the business of selling things for their clients. With the pressure on clients to hit numbers, it becomes difficult to play when you’ve got nanny on your head telling you not to muck around. A big challenge facing creative agencies today is to convince their clients that it’s worth taking a punt. Another problem is when the agencies are willing to push the boundaries, and the client says it’s a bit too creative.

In this age of austerity, the agencies have to find a balance between sales and creativity. To abandon out-of-the-box ideas just because they’re not supported by statistics is folly. This severely limits the value we as agencies can bring to our clients. I am not against data, but a substantial weightage has to be given to instincts. The instincts of smart and creative people, supported by strategic reasoning, can do wonders for the brands.

Today, we’re scared of taking risks when it comes to ideas. Risky creative, previously considered paramount, is now seen through the lens of fear. In the world of unrelenting competition, it has become an uphill battle for creativity where it’s finding ways to survive in the data-driven money game. Data has become an easy shield to hold up while taking risky business decisions. The “what ifs” by the devil’s advocates often overpower great ideas.

Digital space has taken center stage in the advertising industry. The brands aren’t losing time in taking advantage of statistics for creating scroll-stopping ads that stand out and capture the audience’s attention in a social media landscape that’s already flooded with constant posts on the news feeds. Undoubtedly, creativity is required to engage with the audience, but data analysis can help creatives understand their target audience in a way that seems almost magical, while some view this as a barrier to creative freedom.

With the media you buy, whether that’s a rectangular ad on Gulf News or a homepage takeover on YouTube, initially you need to get the right message delivered to the right person, and then the format enables the creativity.

With the right mindset, and a fresh and more creative approach, the brands can use data to do work that doesn’t just get the attention of customers but captures it, holds it and keeps them wanting more. We must not forget that we’re not in the era of the 50s or 60s anymore, and, fortunately, now we can strike a happy balance between knowing our audience, trusting our gut and intuition and taking a risk. It is crucial to ensure your data is the fuel that ignites the creative spark, not the flood that extinguishes it.

Going digital has become imperative for brands to connect with customers, increase brand awareness and skyrocket revenue. There is a paradigm shift from traditional ad spend to digital. We see that the major advertisers are experiencing a steady decline in traditional media, but overall marketing budgets have increased. In such a scenario, there is a soaring demand for agencies with cutting-edge digital expertise and unprecedented creativity skills. The brands have become extremely cautious in picking up an agency whose credibility is largely based on both creativity and digital ability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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