Data & Creativity: A Match Made in Heaven?

Data & Creativity: A Match Made in Heaven?
4 minutes read. October 16th, 2019.

Turning Data into Opportunities

To jump straight in with an example, let’s take a look at Spotify. The music streaming giant, which now has over 170 million listeners worldwide, collects listening data from its users.

The stats have led to a revered creative output, including a showcasing of people’s unusual listening habits via a 2016 billboard campaign which displayed such interesting rhetorical questions as: “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s Day, what did you do?”.

The above is a prime example of how data can allow brands to make informed creative decisions. It allows us to identify trends or patterns and make predictions based on the behaviour of audiences. We can pinpoint the specific parts of a person’s journey and categorise them in a seemingly endless range of ways. Being able to use data to envisage creative opportunities and act upon them offers the potential to make a more memorable impact than if working with mere creativity alone.

Potential Pitfalls

Data analysis is, of course, nothing new, but the reasons for the recent rise in data-driven creativity can be attributed to (you guessed it) the rapid rise of technology, hyper-connectivity and increasing use of mobile devices. All three have led to a stream of information being readily available, paving the way for both analytics tools and the chance to collect mass amounts qualitative feedback via social media. All sounds rather lovely, doesn’t it – so... what’s the catch?

The first conundrum we face is that just because we have access to data doesn’t necessarily mean we should use it to influence every creative move we make. Constant data-fuelled creativity prevents us from catching people off guard and exposing people to new experiences. It’s not to say that data instantly stifles creativity, but rather that we still need to retain a sense of spontaneity and surprise. Think about it this way: if we keep giving people what we believe they want based on what we have inferred about them, how can we deliver something fresh and innovative? This is why we must not rely too heavily on data – it can restrict our ability to think outside the box.

When it comes to the ethics of data collection, we face yet further potential issues. On the whole, the general public either accept or are oblivious to just how much of their personal information is being collected. Be it data regarding location, online habits or product preferences (the list is endless), it has been argued that the profiling of individuals and funnelling of their information towards large corporations is morally wrong. And though businesses operating in Europe are tightly governed by the recent GDPR ruling, the act of data-collection is advancing so fast that we are struggling to keep up with the ethics of the matter. As a result, brands must still question their core values before choosing to travel down the data-driven path.

Check out our blog post on GDPR here.


Ultimately, data-driven creativity offers brands the chance to take campaigns to the next level and, like it or not, there are no signs of it going away. Whilst you certainly don’t need data to be creative – anyone can create something amazing without using numbers and figures to back up their rationale – it would be wrong to say that data doesn’t clearly influence creativity (when used in the right way). We must be aware of the opportunities that data affords us whilst bearing in mind two key points: that creative recession can be harmful, and that categorising and profiling everyone and everything is potentially both restricting and unethical. The marriage of data and creativity might leave less to chance, but it is certainly a double-edged sword.

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Data & Creativity: A Match Made in Heaven?

Paul Hough

Creative Director

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