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Where Arts Meets Science: Fuelling Creativity with Data

Trends and Insight 291 Add to collection

Ogilvy’s Gen Kobayashi asks why data and creativity are so often presented as exclusive

Where Arts Meets Science: Fuelling Creativity with Data
In 2015, the FBI revealed in 96% of criminal cases where hair analysis was critical, the evidence had been misinterpreted.

An unbelievably shocking statistic, but one you’re probably thinking: what on earth has that got to do with marketing or advertising? 

Professor Ruth Morgan, an expert on forensic science at UCL summed-up the problem recently when discussing the future of forensic science in the UK: “The greatest problem we face today is that our ability to analyse data, has outstripped our ability to interpret it”.

This sentence has stuck with me.

Whilst the world of forensic science and criminal law is (thankfully) a million miles away from the world of advertising and marketing, there seem to be parallels that can be drawn in the current debate around data and creativity.

Sir John Hegarty’s wonderfully provocative talk in Cannes saw him blame the demise of creativity in marketing on the industry’s obsession with data. 

As ever, the marketing industry loves a binary battle.
“Data versus Creativity...a relentless fight to the death!”

On one side, those championing creativity above all else. On the other, those who believe data reigns in a world largely governed by technology and innovation.  

But as ever, must data and creativity be exclusive? 

The thrust of the argument from Hegarty was that as an industry, we are obsessed with using data to give us the answers, abandoning our creative instinct to find the less ordinary – to ultimately grow our clients’ brands.

The Scottish poet, Andrew Lang alludes to the dangers of using research data in the wrong way brilliantly: “Some people use statistics as a drunk man uses lamp-posts for support rather than illumination.”

So, is the crux of the creativity in marketing problem “data”? Not entirely. 


The potential power of data, when interpreted in the right way, I’m sure all modern marketeers would agree is the pinnacle of creativity today. We look to the industry’s stand-out campaigns of last year, built on richness of data. Spotify ran a fantastically engaging campaign that took real user data and brought it to life in a memorable and compelling way.


Without harnessing these insights, the fuel for the idea would be non-existent. Proving the power of human instinct to distill information into a compelling creative thought.

Ignore data and run the risk of bypassing insight that leads to powerful creative ideas. Take data at face value and we run an even greater risk of removing human judgement and ultimately suffocating creativity in the process.

Whilst the realms of advertising and forensic science seem completely foreign to one another, we benefit from the knowledge that without the correct interpretation of insight, its ability to power creativity is lost. 


Gen Kobayashi is head of strategy – advertising at Ogilvy UK.
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Ogilvy UK, Tue, 26 Jun 2018 11:17:36 GMT