Marketing’s new creativity

Marketing’s new creativity

We talk to marketers about the tension between programmatic marketing and the creative parts of the role – how do they bring imagination and inventiveness into day-to-day practice?

There’s little doubt that the rise of programmatic marketing has altered the landscape for the creative component of the marketing process. So what does it mean to be creative in today’s data and tech-centric marketing world?

“Programmatic should not stifle creativity,” says Jane Ostler, sector managing director, Media & Digital at advertising market research firm Millward Brown UK. “Marketers need to be ‘renaissance marketers’ and balance creativity with the data and science. Today the stakes are higher because they are dealing with more data and more media options. Creativity is at the heart of it all.”

Rob Garber, managing director of Undertone EMEA, also sees both disciplines as complementary in the marketing process, and believes that there has been an evolution in the relationship between programmatic and creative that has allowed brands to once again focus on the storytelling – in the knowledge that the science is already in place to deliver effectively:

“Creative is the most important piece of the puzzle, but programmatic allows a campaign to be enhanced with data. Campaigns can be optimised in real time to reach exactly the right audience with the right message, which can deliver better campaign results to the brand.”

Brian Cooper, chief creative officer at OLIVER Group UK, believes that the role of programmatic targeting shouldn’t affect or interfere with the creative, provided you have already defined who you’re targeting and where you want to place the content. “Programmatic can actually steer and add clarity to the process – especially if you’re faced with the creative challenge of taking an idea everywhere,” he says.

Cooper, who has most recently worked at Apple as head of creative and strategy EMEA, continues: “Rather than railing against data, creatives should embrace it. Besides, we have no choice – in the future, everything we do in agencies will be data born. As a creative I see this as an opportunity.”


Cooper believes the data-centric approach to marketing removes the tendency to fit the facts to suit an opinion. “Data-born insight is much more powerful than intuition-born insight – the knowledge of the individual – because it avoids confirmation bias. Data is very empathetic – it enables you to gain a strong understanding of your audience and what they want, need and feel. It is both more accurate and more surprising. Creatives love to be surprised, and can use that to create an idea.”

Mark Ellis, creative director at agency Manifesto, says that programmatic presents an opportunity to be more creative around an audience-centred approach rather than a media-centred one. “The programmatic approach offers the opportunity to come up with multiple outcomes around a concept. Although data may ultimately drive selections, you can imagine variations of creative, based on data that you have, which should take advantage of the technology.”

Bringing teams together and combining science in the creative process can offer fresh insights and advantages to both disciplines that previously may have worked in isolation Jim Bowes. Manifesto’s CEO, believes that this marks a new era of collaborative, agile working: “It’s the coming together of people and the understanding of the data that's important. Automation can do a lot, but it can’t do everything. In the end, a great story and a shared passion creates positive action.”

Challenge of programmatic

A programmatic approach can, nonetheless, present complex challenges for the creative team, with multiple considerations and outputs, particularly if the customer data allows for multiple segments and targeting options.

Keeping a close eye on the overarching creative proposition is key when producing variable content, says Paul Normington, creative director at digital marketing consultancy Amaze and CRM agency Amaze One. “Always stay true to the creative idea,” he advises. “Ensure the same brand message is tailored for each customer segment, while retaining targeted relevance and campaign integrity. Failure to do so can result in a diluted message, which can ultimately lack creative cut-through.”

A data-driven campaign can offer marketers unique insights that help drive the creative process, says Normington: “The opportunities lie in the quality and clarity of insights you can gain from the data. Insight can provide a unique angle on which a creative team can hang their campaign. A brilliant or unexpected piece of insight could – and should – form the basis for the perfect creative campaign brief.

“With more data insight comes more knowledge,” Normington continues, “so creative campaigns should in reality become much smarter. With the added ability to integrate more data in a timely and highly targeted fashion, it will open up more opportunities to communicate with relevance to an audience you know more about.


So, rather than stifling creativity, programmatic can bring focus to the creative process, enabling marketers to be clearer about identifying the right places to put content and the assets needed.

“Having a more defined audience to target will allow for much more focus when it comes to creative execution,” says Normington. “ The reliance on shouting the loudest should shift towards an incisive dialogue, where you can be more personal and admissible with consumers. It also creates some restrictions in which to work that, if approached with an open mind, can help focus towards a creative goal.”

Cooper from OLIVER Group certainly views programmatic as complementary to creative. “Perhaps the most important reason for marketers to embrace data is that it cannot, even with the most sophisticated machine learning, generate original ideas,” he says. “Creatives have a unique irreplaceable skill – the ability to put two seemingly random thoughts together and create something new is uniquely human. Data targets the head not the soul.

“It can deliver a theory but not the solution. It’s why Apple Music uses a mixture of data analysis and manual curation. Creativity is still the way to the head through the heart. Data makes sure we target the right part of the right heads.”

Phil Lattimore Freelance Journalist CPL
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