Is Data Detrimental to Creativity?


Last Night an article caught my my eye with the headline: “Is Data Detrimental to Creativity?” Often the day to day work of marketing has become increasingly focused on gathering, processing and interpreting data to gain insights into consumers, their behavior and the overall market. But, maybe, this is distracting marketers from the creative aspects of the discipline.

The article went on to ask this same question to a few of the members of  The Marketing Society, a global network of 2,700 senior marketers pushing  to become bolder leaders by think differently about the challenges they face.

Here are some of the most memorable answers:


Dominic Grounsell
Global marketing director

“I regularly hear complaints about data and the ‘arithmocracy’ killing creativity, but I disagree. The explosion of data and ad-tech can actually liberate creativity when used properly.

New test-and-learn capabilities enable marketers to try lots of new channels and ideas without having to bet the farm. Improvements in targeting and measurement allow marketers to prove at last the impact of our work, which loosens the purse strings for activity that would previously have been rejected as ‘discretionary’.

For example, if I can target a 60-second brand ad and measure the return, I’ll be able to invest more in that type of activity. Data means more insight, more proof and, therefore, more ability to invest in driving the bigger ideas.

It isn’t about marketing by numbers and abandoning judgement. It’s about data creating an environment where creativity can flourish.”



Sally Cowdry
Consumer & retail director

“Where data is, in effect, turned into insight about consumers or audiences – and then applied to a good brief – it should benefit creativity. It’s logical that content that is tailored, personalised and relevant as a result of this insight will cut through and have a bigger impact.

For example, our latest GameStore campaign for instant-win games is digitally led and uses on-site and third-party data to target one of six videos to specific users. It’s early days, but so far this is proving very successful. Over the past few years, the digital media landscape has become more fragmented, and the amount of data generated about audiences has grown exponentially – so the opportunity for creative with greater impact has increased.

The question now is whether creative processes and formats have kept pace to fully take advantage of this.”



Sarah Speake
Chief marketing officer
Clear Channel

“Data gives us insight – and rich data gives us useful insight. For media-owners, useful insight into consumer behaviour, in particular, can shape how our entire estate is built and used, so it’s important to have as much data as possible.

When it comes to creativity, building ideas based on a wealth of insight means the outcome is more likely to be relevant and meaningful to the consumer – which, I believe, the best campaigns always are.

Knowing where to find your audience, what makes them tick and the kind of brand interaction they find valuable may limit the initial scope of creative ideas, but it also means that those remaining are more likely to be effective.

Creativity in advertising is about making magic for the consumer – but how can you know what works for your customers if you don’t know anything about them?”



Nick Fox
Founding partner
Atomic London

“In the near future, we’ll look back with amusement at how ridiculous this question seemed. We have always known that great creativity is driven by great insight.

It wasn’t so long ago that John Webster, “the greatest TV advertising author of the late 20th century”, according to The Guardian, was considered odd for even engaging with consumer groups and using feedback to inform his campaigns. He would have passionately embraced the opportunity to work with more data/better insight.

It is the single greatest exponent we have, and so we should be looking for any way to garner more; simply put, the more we have, the better our insight should be into how consumers think, behave and feel. It is then our role to interpret how this insight can best inform creative work that engages on a deeper level with its audience.”


My personal take is: too much data focus can hold you back from the bigger picture. Too little data can keep you from reaching your full potential. There needs to be a balance between the data you analyze and letting your imagination run wild. More information, data, proof, analysis can fuel your creativity. But, just like building a fire, the ultimate goal of collecting the fire wood isn’t the the fire wood.


Posted by Alvaro Tassano on InterConnecta

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