This month we hosted one of our regular “Comms Confessional” dinners for senior in-house marketing and PR professionals at the Sky Garden. Our subject was creativity in a data-driven world.

Nobody sets out in their marketing career to be “uncreative”, so why don’t we do more of it? Is it harder to be more creative in the world of marketing automation, AI and programmatic? And who ultimately is responsible for creative marketing output?

We discussed these thorny questions with a dozen marketing directors and senior consultants. We’ve wrapped up some of the key findings and our own thoughts into a five-point guide.

Do let us know if you agree with our guests or have any points to add. And if you would like to join a future Comms Confessional dinner or have an idea for a topic, get in touch.

1. You can’t put a price on good creative – but it needs to have a purpose

Do creative ideas produce business results? Undoubtedly, but measuring them and putting a value against them is clearly a challenge.

As an industry, we wrestle with the RoI of creative. It’s a balancing act between being results-oriented, and taking a risk with a leap of faith.  One thing is clear: every piece of creative needs a clear purpose to maximise the chances of its success (and prove it internally).

2. We need to get better at using data insights to support creative – not in conflict with it

Part of the reason we organised this dinner was to discuss whether creative and data are somehow in conflict with each other, or at least there being a tension point. Actually they are mutually dependent. We need to get much better at harnessing data to support creative.

Some of this is about using insights to inform creative decision. With a clear purpose and understanding of what’s expected from the creative, data insights can be a powerful way of supporting a business case or taking one creative route over another.

3. Don’t build a creative platform by committee

The old adage that if you design a horse by committee you end up with a camel is never truer than with creative.

It demonstrates a lack of confidence to allow lots of people to have their say in creative. And the problem is that it ends up taking all the risk away – which kills the creative essence.

The advice is to set a clear decision-making process bring the right people on board to make it happen – and not those who’ll slow things down unnecessarily or become a barrier to progress.

4. Give creative departments freedom – but work with them and put on some “guard rails”

Everyone likes to be involved in the creative process. The marketer’s job is to encourage creatives to provide ideas and not get hung up in getting them to produce fully fleshed out pieces.

The reason for involving agency creatives is to get something different. But that doesn’t mean giving them 360 degrees of freedom. Get involved in the process. Try giving them 45 degrees to play with, not unlimited creative scope.

Agencies should include the creative director in the presentation process too, as clients like to meet the people who come up with the ideas.

5. Agencies need to think collaboratively – and not just with the client

It’s clear that marketing directors don’t really care where the idea comes from – whether it’s agency or in-house. Besides, all good creative is the result of a lot of people working together.

These days we hear a lot about how we need to collaborate with each other to make the idea a reality. Lose the ego and get behind the idea, whether you’ve come up with it or not, was the advice to agencies.

Communication is also key between all parties. Agencies need to get close to the business, and vice versa, suggested a senior marketing consultant.

Our own creative director summed it all up by saying: “It’s all about the best relationships. The best work I’ve ever done is when there’s been a strong collaborative relationship. After all, five minds are better than one.”

Picture credit: Sky Garden 

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