If a gym’s clients claim to go three times a week but our data sources tell us most of them don’t make it twice, it’s clear that our creative approach to those people should play not on "because you’re active" but "because you want to be active".
Likewise, if a bank reckons it can address what keeps people awake at night, it won’t find out by asking the question in the daytime. Search data integrated with insights into mood from social feeds and behavioural data will reveal more than a room of people bribed with £50 and the promise of free snacks.
In both cases, the increased power of data does not mean creativity loses importance; the strategy just provides a more defendable jumping-off point.
Data and creativity are one, and you can really see it in service design and the world of tech start-ups, where the best data scientists are as creative as the leap-of-faith entrepreneurs. Data, after all, doesn’t give you the answers so much as show you where to look for them. Insight is the child of rigour and imagination.
My fear is that originality in the long run might suffer. Data makes the ideas economy more efficient, but is there a law of diminishing returns here? It’s not hard to picture a data-driven, mash-up-fixated commissioning model moving in ever decreasing circles.
And TV ads certainly seem less surprising than ever. But, given the right data and the right talent, the outcome needn’t be shit. Commercial creativity can benefit just as the "over the top" broadcasters have.
We just need faith in both "sides". We must use data to hedge our bets, but not be afraid to make them.
In TV land, there’s the odd worrying portent. Last autumn, Netflix announced that it is backing four new Adam Sandler comedies. This is democracy at work. With entertainment, as with politics, you get the content your data deserves.