Data driven creativity: are you scared or in control?

Some people are afraid of creativity, as if it is black magic. Just like some creatives are afraid of data because they think it is too restrictive. But data driven creativity combines the best of both worlds. Did you know, for instance, that Netflix hit-series House of Cards wouldn’t have existed without data driven creativity?

Creative work is an intuitive thing

There once was a time that creatives would get a brief and after a few days of ‘thinking outside the box’ they would come up with ideas or concepts. How they did it was a big mystery until our industry was democratized by trainers and gurus who taught people how to brainstorm and gave them the idea that a creative process is like filling out an Excel-sheet. It’s not.

All creatives I know read the brief and then do their magic, without thinking too much about the restrictions. The best way to kill creativity is to constantly check if all requirements are met. Especially in a first review.

That makes creativity a bit scary: it is an intuitive skill. The results of creativity are SMART in a very subjective way: technically the work is done, but how do you know it is good or not? You could only find that out by testing the original design and copy and compare this to the reworked ones with all the feedback and comments from clients and other stakeholders.

On the other hand a lot of creatives are scared of too many details and data, that could restrict their creativity. They will ask for a precise brief, but only to make sure that there are no unpleasant surprises when they come up with an idea.

Risk management is part of the job

From a creative’s perspective, a great idea can lead to great results but there’s no guarantee of that which is, once again, a scary part. Our work is based on intuition, combined with years of education and experience. And still the outcome is not necessarily on brief. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t: it’s as simple as that.

Clients however don’t like to take risks. They want to make sure that every euro spent is worth the money. And that worth is defined by hard figures.

charity-water-email-example-1Creating a pleasant surprise

If you take a look at the best cases over the years, they all were great because they did something that had never been done before. Take a look at these three cases:

  • Manboobs: if you are not allowed to show female breasts, but you want to raise awareness for self-examination, why not use the nudity you can use instead?
  • Giga Selfie: everybody takes selfies these days. But isn’t it a shame that you hardly see the great surroundings, especially if you want to promote a destination?
  • Charity: water shows that emails can have high impact, even if you tell people in advance how many more emails they will receive.

You can feel straight away that these cases involved some risk, taken by the team (agency AND client): would it work or not? When it worked, it made a great case video. But let’s not forget there are cases that didn’t work well and that we never heard about. What we do hear is all the mediocre stuff in the middle: it scored according expectation but… it wasn’t good enough to make a solid case. So if you can manage the expectations and all parties are willing to take some risk, magic can happen. And that is where data driven creativity comes in.

Winning cases for data driven creativity

The international award winning cases are interesting and inspiring. They make us aware of the potential of our own clients. That is why we are proud to work on these winning cases for KPN Compleet (Gold – Dutch Interactive Awards), Nuon (Hack your marketing!) and Marlies Dekkers (nominated for DDMA Customer Data Award).

Data driven creativity leaded to Netflix’ House of Cards

The better the data are analyzed, the technology is developed and lessons are learned from the past, the better you’ll be able to make the initial creative idea better. It resulted in the success of Netflix series House of Cards.

The production company pitched the idea of a remake of the original British series to several studios. Most of them were willing to give it a go for a pilot and then to see what happens. But Netflix analyzed their own user data and found that there were:

  • a lot of fans of the original series
  • a lot of fans of director David Fincher, who was on board for this remake
  • a lot of fans of Kevin Spacey, Fincher’s 1st pick for the leading role

data netflix

And so instead of agreeing to run a pilot, they signed up for a 2 year contract and spending $100.000.000 on the series. They took some risk, but they also knew that it was very likely to create a success story.

What you can learn from this

Data driven creatives know that everyone can think out of the box these days. But better than anyone else they know how to combine their gut feeling with good insights, data and technology. The trick is not to use it as input for a brief, but as a check for the creative idea. Just like Netflix did.

So let creatives do their magic with your input, and check the boxes afterwards. Use your data and insights to see where it fits and determine what your creative agency or department should do to make it even more matching.

Can you create something with the data as a brief?

Of course you can, but that is something for a next blogpost. In the meanwhile, read more on the rise of Netflix and how to find your ‘key metric that matters’ in this great article.

Maybe you can also guess what the success ingredients are of the new Netflix series Stranger Things?

Bron header picture: Netflix

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