Is an over-reliance on data, damaging creativity in marketing?

For many years there has been an argument that data-driven marketing is going to have a deleterious effect on creativity in marketing.

An industry built on and subservient to new technology, with art, copy, and intuition mattering less and less.

Concentrating on data is a huge missed opportunity.

Though I can see why it is being asked, I fundamentally believe that creativity is as vital an aspect of marketing as it ever was.

New technology and the torrent of data it provides work best when married to a creative approach. Connecting a brand with the consumer has always been a mix of art and science. It is just that now we have more of the latter to help us out, allowing us to personalise and pinpoint an approach in ways old media agencies could only dream of.

There are potential faultlines though. Not every brand is going to get a mix of data and creativity right. Here are the key issues I think every brand and their marketing team should keep in mind.


Data-driven, programmatic advertising, for instance, has been taking real chunks out of total marketing budgets. No doubt about it, the appeal of science – the thought that every ad could reach the right people at the right price, is huge.

Let’s keep things in perspective though. Technology can help you find the customer and to put you in a place ready to engage with them. But only creativity, a spark of life if you like, is going to help you achieve that final engagement between the brand and the audience they seek to attract.

It is worth taking a look at Google’s (beautifully succinct) definition of programmatic marketing:

The use of technology and audience insights to automatically buy and run a campaign in real time, reaching the right user with the right message.

But if that ‘right message’ has been provided by a piece of software (the way the user is now provided in many instances in media planning), the message will only appeal to another piece of software. The message needs to speak to the human audience. Up until the point a computer can impersonate the creativity of an art department, the message will not work no matter how well it has been (automatically) placed.

Creativity (of all forms, from design to media planning) needs to be protected by budgets, not replaced.


I've experienced working with people who recognise the importance of both data and creativity, but who don’t understand the need to make them work together. Creativity needs to be informed by data and data is best implemented by creativity.

Concentrating on data is a huge missed opportunity. Creativity and data are separate entities but they both need to provide the infrastructure for a single entity: in the ideal scenario, you still need a marketing department that is able to look at the broader picture and to make creativity and data work together.

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