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Can Data Driven Creative Really Work?

Differences Between Data-Driven and Creative Personalities
Tiffany Johnson

Data scientists and creative designers come from two different worlds, with two very different perspectives.

Creatives are… well… creative. They tend to be free-spirits, who don’t like to be given strict constraints for how they should come up with the next amazing idea.  You can’t put a creative spirit in a glass jar and expect it to thrive.

According to Psychology Today, “Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.”

This leads me to believe you can help creatives, as well as most people, thrive by giving basic structure to help promote a balance of discipline and playfulness. Information on the client, campaign goals, media channels, audiences – information that helps focus their creative energy – are helpful.

That is where data scientists come in. There is often a belief that data scientists cannot be creative, that we are stricter, rule followers – I don’t believe this is true.

Data, handled the right way, is a fine balance between science and art.  

When you stare at a spreadsheet of numbers, you need an experienced artist’s eye to identify what is most important.  How do you make the data useful? This is what I call data strategy – the ability to tell a story with the data in front of you, which takes both creativity and an understanding of the underlying data.

In the context of working with a creative design team, creative data strategy also means admitting data doesn’t live only in a spreadsheet, that data comes from the design team as well – in their experience, their reactions, their perspectives.

This is where data and creativity merge.  Data can tell you who purchases a product and who doesn’t, it can tell you about motivations, personality traits – it can answer who, what, when, where, why.  

Creative design teams are the people who take this data and use it to make people feel.  “Creative has always been the crucial point where the marketer meets the consumer,” says Oz Etzioni in his Adweek post about breaking silos between creative and data. What most people want is a reason to care, to feel a certain way and that is what a good creative team does.

As data strategists, it is our job to work with creative teams to ensure we are providing the right kinds of data and testing structures that help creative teams flourish and grow – to thrive in their creativity without putting them in a box.  

When it comes down to it, creative teams and data teams have more commonalities than differences – we are often detail-oriented, perfectionists, artists.   When we work together, we can make creatively, data-driven magic.

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Tiffany Johnson Headshot
Tiffany is an ethical data advocate and strong believer in helping companies and individuals discover their own path towards ethical data ownership, transparency and use. She believes in changing the conversation on how we collect data, so there is more transparency on what is collected, how that data is used and how new technology can help create consumer-based data ownership. Tiffany's experience includes 13+ years of strategic data and technology work in advertising and consulting on IBM, Samsung, Nissan, IDEMIA and other accounts. Her in-depth knowledge of data comes from a background in computer programming, followed by learning and leading in digital marketing, automated systems, data collection, measurement methodology, data analytics, audience profiling, technology assessments and implementations and strategic use of data in business strategy. She currently works as a Senior Director of Data Analytics and Technology at Wunderman Thompson and can be found sharing data knowledge on Twitter and Instagram @tjdoesdata

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