The tension and symbiosis between data and creative has always been a powerful driver of content and marketing success. But what comes first, data or creative?
These days, we understand that our job, as marketers and advertisers, is to connect products with people through ideas. Because, without ideas, how can we expect anyone to be interested in what we have to sell?
Many agencies approach idea generation through the “Four Truths” model:
1. Category truth – what’s going in this sector of the market?
2. Human truth – how the product relates to the person buying it
3. Brand truth – what emotional territories does the brand own that its audience relates to?
4. Product truth – in what unique ways does the product deliver benefit to users?
These are the ways brands can connect with their audience and communicate ideas. Each of them creates an emotional access point by suggesting more than the product itself – a feeling, a visceral hook.
But when advertising was young, this was still a novel concept. The emergence of performance promise in ads, which introduced the idea that a product could bring you sex appeal, coolness or familial bliss added a new, potent element to how brands marketed their products. It was an important step, but not everyone was pleased.
The emergence of performance promise in ads, which introduced the idea that a product could bring you sex appeal, coolness or familial bliss added a new, potent element to how brands marketed their products.
Advertising pioneer Claude C Hopkins wrote a book called Scientific Advertising, where he said: “The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales. It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen.”
For him, advertising had to be measurable and success could only be counted in how much was sold. He believed that advertising existed only to sell something and should be measured and justified by the results it produced. In his work, he used direct response advertising by mailing out offers and calculating the ROI. His approach was data-driven, and he believed everyone else should do the same.
Others, like advertising giant Ogilvy, agreed that measurement was valuable, but also understood the importance of audience.
In his early experience selling Aga cookers, Ogilvy realised that a fundamental part of selling lay in understanding the audience and honing your approach to them. He was interested in measurement but also in connecting people with arguments. This was the beginning of a burgeoning awareness of the ‘human truth’ - the importance of dwelling on a detail to draw people in.
Ogilvy realised that a fundamental part of selling lay in understanding the audience and honing your approach to them. He was interested in measurement but also in connecting people with arguments.
This new way of thinking helped to usher in a creative revolution in advertising. The 1950s were the consumer-driven, golden age of advertising where ideas were King. Human truths began to be harnessed to product truths in a way that intimately connected the buyer and the product. It was all about the emotional connection and the potential for a buyer to connect with an item on an identity level.
This development endured, but the 1960s introduced a critical new element: Data. Data, bought from organisations and financial institutions, began to be analysed by Account Planners, who soon became the norm in agencies everywhere. This goldmine of information could reveal buying habits and key information on target demographics. It could be aggregated to track trends in the market, reveal customer habits and highlight areas that could be optimised. This was an incredibly significant realisation in advertising. But it wasn’t until 40 years later, with the birth of the internet, when the potential was fully realised.
The internet began in 1992 but, initially, there wasn’t much change to the advertising landscape. It was just another platform. However, in 2000, as more and more people began to get online, things changed. Since then, data has become the new currency. Facebook, for example, has 52,000 data points on its users- that’s an incredibly powerful data tool. Understanding an audience on such a granular level allows brands to continually optimise and plug gaps, analyse competitors, discover catalytic insights. The more you can measure, the more you can improve.
Data-driven disciplines allow brands and agencies to constantly iterate and improve performance. It also means that advertising now begins with the audience and their needs. Data has eroded the barriers between people and products, and they now inform each other in a constant, ever-optimised loop.
Data-driven disciplines allow brands and agencies to constantly iterate and improve performance. It also means that advertising now begins with the audience and their needs.
Three Whiskey understands the power of metrics in today’s market and our strong data background helps brands to understand their audience fully, then use creative disciplines to personalise to them. As well as using writers and art directors in our campaigns, we also use social engineers who can integrate measurement into the mix, and consider the influences of platform, audience and deployment.
As a hybrid agency, we’ve discovered how to harness creativity to bring the insights of data to life, and to constantly test, iterate and find new boundaries for data to explore.