Why Marketing Must Leverage an 'Artscience' Philosophy

Add a Data Analyst and Unlock a Vast Amount of Creativity

By Published on .

Michael Fassnacht
Michael Fassnacht
James Shuttleworth
James Shuttleworth
Popular culture, including TV shows such as "Mad Men," would have us believe the practice of marketing in an ad agency is a straightforward exercise, calling only for understanding the customer, coming up with a big idea, then creating something interesting and relevant to engage consumers.

Not quite. Marketing organizations today are under the gun as never before -- from a media landscape growing increasingly convoluted and a fleeting consumer universe to the mounting pressure of accountability for any marketing dollar spent. Today's new universe demands a different approach to the design and execution of any marketing effort. And yet, little intellectual brain power or emotional energy is being invested in improving the fundamental marketing process. We are proposing an innovative change to the structure of the marketing process that we believe will help rescue marketing from further decline and marginalization. And while we focus on the change within ad agencies, our approach is applicable, indeed imperative, across the full spectrum of marketing organizations led by CMOs.

The first structural change in our ad industry occurred in the early 1950s. It involved the creation of the two-person entity -- an art director and a copywriter. The second innovation took place in the late 1960s, as U.K. advertising guru Stanley Pollitt successfully added a third member to the team -- the account planner.

It's now time for a third change, a paradigm shift we call "calculated boldness."

Calculated boldness is a form of "artscience" marketing, a term originally coined by Harvard's David Edwards, professor of biomedical engineering at Harvard University and author of "Artscience: Creativity in the Post-Google Generation." It exemplifies the union of two increasingly essential disciplines within marketing: strategic planning and analytics (working, of course, in tandem with creatives and other marketing team members). Within a marketing organization or team, merging the artistic manner of the strategic planner with the scientific brain of the analyst will alter how marketers work and how they produce great marketing.

Calculated boldness is best described as the human synthesis of art and science in thought and action. It occurs when people combine science and intelligent analysis with an intuitive and creative way of seeing the world, creating the ultimate synthesis -- an artscience approach -- to marketing. Bringing together this ultimate synthesis requires an understanding of its roots. Science is the effort to discover and increase human understanding of how the physical world works; art is the process or product of deliberately and creatively arranging elements in ways that appeal to the senses or emotions. One is focused on analytically understanding the world; the other creates new worlds, big or small, out of human imagination. Science is fighting against ignorance, uncertainty and ambiguity; art's enemies are limits, dullness and sameness.

The paradigm of separation between art and science has long prevailed, with the gap even wider in recent history as the trend toward specialization grows, focusing peoples' talents on smaller and smaller areas of expertise. Ad agencies were established in the late 19th century with two dominant functions -- account management plus creative -- and followed this model until the mid-20th century. Then media services were added as a separate discipline. The discipline of account planning arrived in the late 1960s to strengthen the link between the work itself and the targeted consumer.

Over the last 20 years, beyond refinement, methodology improvement and expansion of research tools, there has been little truly innovative development within the account-planning function, resulting in unprecedented opportunities and green fields for analytics as the application of statistical methodologies entered marketing.

The practice of modern analytics has, over the past five years, penetrated all areas of life, from everyday sociological phenomena with "Freakonomics" to the financial world where financial "quants" have dominated the field of investment intelligence. Analytics rose in marketing agencies with the rise of captured consumer information and the increased mining of sales and consumer-research data. Analytics became an unheralded subdivision and service function of strategic planning, focused on a few core areas such as customer segmentation, marketing effectiveness and spend optimization.

Today the green fields lie in the artscience approach, which can retool and refresh the application of marketing analytics.

Artscience is a concept that Harvard's Edwards put forth to foster and promote the joining of art and science practices, thinking and methodologies. According to Edwards, when people from both backgrounds work and think together, an intermediate zone of creativity and breakthrough occurs.

The marketing discipline must now create and leverage this philosophy of artscience. Adding the data analyst to the core marketing team is a paradigm shift that will unlock the vast amount of creativity that can erupt when two different disciplines -- strategic planning and analytics -- meet and collaborate. It will change how marketing teams are put together, how they work and how they can best achieve business results with impact.

Applying the artscience concept will help agencies and CMOs alike to understand the need for and hiring of the right kind of people--those able to move between the art and science discourse. It calls for actively fostering collaboration between these individuals. It ensures that the talent balance between artists and scientists, each sufficiently represented and productive with each other, is on track in the organization. Indeed, CMOs seeking success will need to personally blend art and science and become the ultimate artscientist.

Our concept is not the merger of traditional "creative" with "numbers" people, but the conversion of strategic planning and analytics into a new practice of thinking and working that joins their different and multiple versions of reality and truth into something new. It will enable calculated boldness, something marketing desperately needs.

Five Steps to Begin Implementing Artscience Marketing

  1. Get outside your box.
    To get unconventional thinking you have to hire unconventional thinkers. Get beneath vocations to avocations.
  2. Inspire bi-polar conversations.
    Review any marketing idea from a purely analytical perspective and then from a purely creative perspective. Don't seek the common ground too soon.
  3. Challenge people on two fronts.
    Balance the drive of your organization to create "generalists" with the need for deep functional expertise. Every CMO needs to be a generalist, but he or she benefits greatly from a deep foundation in one particular marketing area, either the analytical or the planning field.
  4. Raise the bar.
    Elevate analytics and creative planning as must-have skills for all of the people on your team; too often both areas are treated as specialist fields that only other specialists need to deal with.
  5. Create the right environment.
    There is inherent tension in artscience marketing. To get the most out of it everyone needs to be comfortable with the messes it sometimes creates, and be clear that the end product is what is valued.
Michael Fassnacht is global chief strategy officer for Draftfcb and James Shuttleworth is chief strategic planning officer at Draftfcb Chicago. This piece is an edited excerpt from a book being written by Fassnacht and Shuttleworth that has the working title, "Calculated Boldness: An Introduction to Artscience Marketing."
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