In the final of our three-part series, Fuse brings you the biggest talking points from the Festival of Marketing that have inspired us to think differently.


While this question is not new, it is longstanding; what is the relationship between data and creativity? It is a balancing act that is shaping the process in which brand campaigns are created and delivered and it continues to divide opinion. The debate rumbled on at the Festival of Marketing with both Insights Specialists and Data Scientists taking to the stage to share their opinions on the subject.

Good ideas come from great insight, the power of data

Richard Maryniak, Global Chief Insight & Innovation Officer at Black Swan Data, is a recent convert to data science, despite a career across a breadth of creative, media and strategic agencies.

According to Maryniak, more data has been created in the past two years than in the history of humankind so the opportunity to implement smart data strategies is massive. His belief is good ideas come from great insight that, importantly, is driven by regular interaction with real people. That is why, in Maryniak’s view, social data is especially powerful.

“We often view the world through the microcosm of our own influence” Maryniak explained. “Social data gives us the ability to expand our perspectives in an instant”. Maryniak claims that unlike traditional research methods, the real power of social data is its ability to objectively predict what consumers will talk about next. For many brands, this shift from the ‘here and now’ to ‘what is next’ is a new way of viewing data and brands such as PepsiCo, McDonald’s and Google are already applying it as an effective insights tool.

Data becomes a crutch upon which all decisions are made. That’s where it is dangerous.

This importance of expanding our perspectives to create better ideas was a view shared by many at the festival. While everyone agreed that data was key to this, Sir John Hegarty, Founder of BBH London, issued a warning. “Data is not new, it has been around for a very long time. The difference is that today, it becomes a crutch upon which all decisions are made. That’s where it is dangerous”.

Hegarty went on to reference the example of Apple and Nokia, stating that Apple chose to ignore the data at the turn of the millennium which suggested consumers wanted phones to get smaller and remain phone first, computer second. The first iPhone bucked this trend and so the ‘smartphone’ revolution was underway. Nokia, on the other hand, followed the data and were left behind (clearly this is far too simplistic, but Hegarty had made his point).

The importance of creative marketing: it isn’t just a science.

Sam Fletcher, Head of Insight & Marketing Performance at HSBC UK supported Hegarty’s theory that data should not always be the deciding factor. Referencing the creation of HSBC’s “Together We Thrive” Campaign, Fletcher stated that “We went through a huge research process to find insights and data to inform our ideas but there were times where the data couldn’t help us. We are big fans of evidence-based marketing, but this showed us that at times, you still need to go with the art. Marketing isn’t just a science”.

Ultimately there was acknowledgment across the festival that data, when used responsibly, is an incredibly powerful tool. But it is the way in which we use this data that can be the difference between a golden insight and a red herring.

Fuse View

Data and insight are essential to delivering successful campaigns, but data must always be taken in context.  As Fletcher says, marketing isn’t a science, so balancing data with human insights and knowledge is likely to result in a more impactful marketing campaign.

Key to unlocking this is an integrated approach across disciplines. Media, data, creative and PR should all have the opportunity to interrogate data at the very beginning of the process to form a robust marketing strategy and then creative.

We’ve seen the power of integration first hand. Our Fuse Data & Analytics team works closely with our Omnicom Media Group UK friends at OMD, Manning Gottlieb OMD, PHD and Hearts & Science to create and deliver effective campaign solutions for brands across the Omnicom network.

To read our full report on the Festival of Marketing click here.