How one grumpy creative is learning to love data.


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“How will we know that this will work?”

This is the logical question for marketers to ask when presented with a new advertising concept or marketing tactic. As much as they might like the idea–and as much as they are reassured by those who have created it–they yearn for some form of impartial information that will “prove” to them that the concept we’re presenting will outperform all others.

A decade ago, whenever a marketer asked that question of any ad creative presenting new work, the answer most likely was some variation of “trust me.” For support, we could point to consumer behavioral studies or similar case histories or previous experiences we’ve had with similar marketing problems. But at the end of the day, it came down to “Based on our experience, we believe this will work.”

Today, however, we in the creative industries have an unlikely ally: data. I say “unlikely” because for decades, creatives were trained to be skeptical of people bearing spreadsheets. Especially when it came to trying to apply hard numbers to emotionally-based creative concepts.

To be clear, there is a huge difference between “research” and “data.” “Research” is an undertaking to discover a specific answer to a specific question or concern (“Do viewers understand what the key message of this commercial is?”). Most research requires a fair amount of subjectivity to extrapolate precious few data points to form a conclusion. “Data,” on the other hand, are ongoing real-time streams of engagement metrics. Data provide “snapshots in time” that are based around action, not interpretation.

Today’s data are empirical, and can take much of the subjectivity out of the equation. For example, you can evaluate your email subject lines by seeing what your “open” rates are. You can measure how many more clicks Facebook ad “version A” got than “version B.” You can see where visitors are dropping off your web site. You can compare click-to-conversion ratios. You can quantify which content your audience has amplified or engaged with and which they didn’t.

Most importantly, today’s data make it easier to “course correct” during your marketing efforts, no longer forcing you to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and pull the plug on a concept, tactic or a program because a single element underperformed. Today’s marketing is less about “campaigns” that have a fixed beginning and end, and more about measuring and sustaining ongoing engagement from your audiences.

Let me tell you, as a creative, the “era of data” takes a lot of heat off. Not just when analytics prove the times we are right, but more importantly to give us insight into how we can make efforts we’ve launched better.

And rather than stifling creativity, my belief is that data can help drive it. Bold marketers, rather than casting about for reassurance when presented with a bold concept, are more and more likely to say, “Let’s run with it, then see how it does,” knowing that the knobs can always be tweaked down the road.

The basic tools required to get started in capturing data are free (or cheap) and are relatively easy to use (find out more about that in this post).

It was deparment store maven John Wannamaker who supposedly said about advertising, “I know I’m wasting half of my money. The problem is, I don’t know which half.”

Today’s data and analytics might just help him figure that out.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.


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