Advertising Week 2014

It's Not Big Data, It's the Big Idea, Stupid

Hegarty, Porter Say It's Insights Gleaned From Analytics That Really Matter

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Data might be the hot new trend in advertising, but it's really old news.

That's what a trio of creative luminaries said Monday at Advertising Week, noting that collecting information on people has been around for as long as people have been writing things down, and in fact goes back to cave painting.

John Hegarty
John Hegarty

"People think data is the new thing, and to that I say 'bullshit,'" said Bartle Bogle Hegarty founder John Hegarty, who was part of a panel called "When Big Data Met Big Creativity" with Chuck Porter, chairman of CP&B and Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer and chairman of Ogilvy.

What is new is that there is a lot more data -- what Mr. Tham called "infobesity." But just because there are incredible amounts of analytics these days does not mean they should be used as the sole metric to measure ideas. The speakers were adamant that creativity goes hand-in-hand with data and should complement each other. At its heart, data are insights best used as an inspiration to reach and identify an audience.

Mr. Tham cited as an example the Dove "Campaign for Real Beauty," which has won scads of creative awards but grew out of single data point: Only 4% of women considered themselves beautiful. "Data is the orchestra, creative is the music," he said. "You need both."

Chuck Porter
Chuck Porter

"Any creative is obsessed with data," said Mr. Hegarty, because it gives them insights. He cautioned it should be used "to guide us, not to be our masters."

"Human beings are not a collection of algorithms," he said.

BBH's "Keep Walking" campaign for Johnnie Walker, for example, grew out of data finding that its drinkers were successful but still striving.

Mr. Porter professed his love for big data and analytics, but made the point that creative idea is paramount. "In any new medium, the great story is the killer app," he said. Calling "unexpectedness" an art, he demonstrated by showing CP&B's "Lamp" commercial for Ikea.