A few years ago, when working on a campaign for an ice-cream brand that was about to launch in India, the creative team brainstormed its way into what we thought is a sure-shot winner of an idea. A campaign that punned on Hindi lingo which we thought was commonly used amongst the youth. 15 minutes into presenting this to a larger group, someone pulled out data on weather conditions in the country which also happen to directly affect sales of ice-cream to show that the highest ice-cream consumers in India probably came from the South and more precisely, from Chennai, making our campaign undecipherable to them. That was the day we left the room cursing data for ruining our creatives and then thanking data for helping us make an informed choice.
I remember going back home with a thought lingering in my head that in the days to come, a solid understanding of data will probably help us deliver advertising that creates an impact. Data, a word that is flippantly thrown around, but if used well can work wonders in creative, effective advertising. So we set about building a team that can help craft the future of advertising.
Traditionally, creative teams in agencies are formed by a copy and an art team. Today's economy demands the need for a context team as well. A team that is equipped with the tools to read, understand and decipher the audience, the conversations and the sentiments and then help translate the knowledge into the right copy and design to deliver an impact for the business.
The D in a CD is now driven by data. Data helps us identify the right direction; the creatives then pave way for the highway to be laid to lead the consumers to the business goals set.
Sometimes good ideas may not stand against the tide of data and that is when we rely on intuition on who to trust. I'm not saying data needs to validate every idea, but data can help us predict the results to a large extent.
We could argue that in the 'Mad Men' era, data was scoffed upon and yet, the Don Drapers went with their intuition to craft campaigns that made them legend. But the fact of the matter is that we aren't in the Mad Men era, we are in the era of diminishing attention spans. We are in the era of multiple devices and audiences that are spoilt for choice with multiple avenues to satiate their needs. So, in today's day and age, there is an innate need for a deeper understanding of this audience so as to garner five seconds of their time and not be intrusive.
Today, the Creative Director needs to understand consumer behaviour to design a seamless user experience across multiple devices over a period of time. A copy team needs to know what to talk about to engage and participate in conversations with their segment and a design team needs to know why the bottom left part of a website is permanently ignored. Data helps solve for all of this.
So it's time for a revamp of the entire agency structure. There is a need for adopting data as a core function that encompasses the entire agency and not leave it just to the realms of a planning team. There is a need for creatives and data to be Baes.
PS: Data told me using words like Baes may help engage the millennials in this article. I should probably have gone with intuition on that one.
(The author is co-founder and creative chief at The Glitch, a GroupM agency)