The “Data Driven” Death Sentence

By March 20, 2019 No Comments

You know that one teacher you had in high school, the one that put you to sleep every single class, without fail? He was boring and old, monotoned and unemotional. It was obvious that he didn’t like teaching and he probably didn’t like you. Actually, he didn’t like anyone in the class. The type of guy who never cracked a smile, never chuckled at a joke, and never showed you his character. Grayish in appearance, slow-moving in nature. He delivered his lessons and didn’t digress from the curriculum. Not an inspired thinker. He never asked questions and never answered yours. He just wanted you to spit back the information and check all the boxes. Remember him?

Well, don’t forget him. If you ever plan on going into any form of marketing, you’re going to be working for him. His new name? Data. Agencies from all over the world have discovered a way to use data to take notes and reflect on their efforts. For some, this has led to endless amounts of over-analysis, over-optimization, and over-thinking. Some have even gone so far to exclaim that they’re “data-driven.” They’ve adjusted their practice to obey the numbers. Now, don’t get me wrong; data is a very useful tool in a diverse toolkit. But some agencies have taken it a step too far. Data allows you to micro-analyze certain behaviors and patterns that can be useful when focusing on transactional architecture design and development. But when building progressive campaigns, hard data has no place.

Back to the classroom analogy: data was the student in the front of the class who only took notes and never raised his hand. Uninventive, just somebody there to copy notes from. He was quiet, unemotional, and forgettable. You don’t want to work for that kid, but you might want that kid working for you.

Advertising, PR, marketing, branding, design, and every other form of a large-scale sales effort is a practice of delivering emotion and inspiring action. Data is nothing more than zeros and ones that communicate action that’s already taken place. Data can tell you what happened and when it happened but it can’t tell you why it happened.

It’s our job to conceive the “why.” We invent the urges. We dictate your emotion. Data simply collects information on something we engineered. It’s immaterial in the creative process, only to be used in post-production to tweak and adjust.

So the idea of being “driven” by data is bonkers! A total death sentence. You can’t be told what to do by somebody who’s never done it. You can’t work for somebody who can’t do the work themselves. And the work is the spirit of what you’re doing. It’s the life in the campaign!

We drive the data, and so should you. Not the other way around.