I’m tired of hearing everyone talk about how data is going to save our industry. I’m tired of everyone measuring creative effectiveness against KPIs for which they are ill suited. I’m tired of watching all of the good ideas turn into splinters of their former selves in service of their data-driven masters. And mostly, I’m tired of the bad work that often springs from so-called “data-driven advertising.”
Data isn’t a strategy.
I’ve read all about how CMOs are now going to have to be data scientists as much as they are going to continue to be traditional marketers. I hope that’s not true. No dataset, no matter how robust, ever created a great strategy. The data to which we have access is almost always best used for confirmation, not creation. For validation, not origination. “Looking hard at the data and making a judgment” is not a strategy. A strategy still lives at the intersection of product truths and human insights and market opportunities and lots of other things (of which data should play a role, but will never be the primary “a-ha”). You can see signs in the data, find trends in the data (or as Nate Silver says, find “the signal in the noise”). But the development of a great strategy is, almost 100 percent of the time, a deeply human process.
Nothing takes the place of a great idea. Nothing. Maybe I’m getting old, but I feel like there are fewer iconic campaigns being produced—fewer brands that can practically list their advertising on an asset sheet. And I think data is to blame for that. CMOs are quicker to walk away from campaigns because they have instant access to too much data. I wonder if a campaign like Errol Morris’ Miller High Life will ever happen again? That campaign has 80 executions on Errol’s website. And it brought Miller High Life back from extinction. Will a CMO ever again have the conviction to run 80 spots of a campaign? I doubt it.