The Edit Blog

How data makes for average marketing

ARTICLE BY Rob McGowan
    READ TIME: 2 mins
    30th August 2018

    I often quip that in a world where Brand A and Brand B both have robotic processes and automated algorithms that are using more or less the same data to tackle more or less the same question to target more or less the same people, the output will be, well, more or less the same.

    Put more succinctly, we will regress to the mean. Marketing from Brand A and B will end up being very similar. Doubtless, it will be scientifically solid, but outwardly it will be… Beige.

    What are the robots overwriting?

    Yes, processes will be automated, and yes, the robots will be doing things that are undoubtedly impressive… But as we continually apply algorithms over big data sets and automate the outcome on digital platforms, do we edge further away from marketing with feeling – marketing that makes you really think “wow”?

    I worry that technology gives those of us that work in marketing an ‘out’. An excuse to not think critically, to not add nuance or empathy.

    An excuse to be lazy.

    Creativity cannot be automated

    Sir John Hegarty was recently quoted as saying: “When you get these great tech advances and innovations, creative people stand back and say, ‘what the hell do I do with this?’. The tech becomes king and everyone bows down in the face of technology. But eventually technology runs out of innovation and then creative people come in”.

    I agree with the sentiment, but feel that the definition of ‘creative people’ should probably be stretched more broadly than the traditional marketing definition.

    In the world we inhabit and, in particular, the marketing industry we work in, creativity has many forms. It’s critical to be able to align disciplines behind an idea that may be abstract to each of them in isolation but collectively provides a North Star that everyone can unite behind.

    Modern marketing needs both algorithms and imaginations

    Data should be a thread to join things together, not necessarily the arbiter of everything that has to happen. Room must be given for intuition and gut feel. Budget must be apportioned sensibly – allowing the various main pieces of the marketing puzzle (media, creative, strategy, data science, and planning) to be intertwined.

    To do this effectively requires creative thought. It requires experts in one discipline to think broadly, to go wide before they go deep, to creatively apply the expertise of others in the work they manage.

    So, let’s allow the robots to automate the boring, to manage the high-volume number crunching. With the time we save, we need to become the connective architects of our discipline, joining together teams, uniting behind common goals, and creating output where the whole genuinely is more than the sum of the parts.

    Creating these connections in our work, just as in society, is vital for the overall health of the discipline and the creativity of the output.

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