Last week WARC held it's annual Creativity in Advertising conference, at a comfy hideaway somewhere in London. I didn't get to go, but I've just been reading the reports on WARC and (even if they're not exactly news) the themes of the day make for sobering reading:
1. The traditional "persuasion" model of advertising is broken.
2. The industry is becoming data rich but insight poor.
3. The structure and process of creating advertising has changed little since the days of Mad Men (whilst consumers have moved on dramatically).
In the words of dubious 90's girlband Shampoo: "uh oh, we're in trouble." But at least we agree that something's wrong - and that's got to be a step towards doing something about it.
I'm also glad I'm not the only one worried about how we can balance imagination and information, to develop kick ass ideas. The wonderful Rory Sutherland, who chaired the conference, warned of the dangers of becoming over-reliant on data and analysis, for fear of its effect on creativity. Antony Tasgal, founder of POV Marketing and Research, echoed the need for us to value insight over information, concluding neatly that "it's easier to count the bottles than describe the wine inside them".
At the heart of the problem, according to the report, is "the rise of the Arithmocracy" - a group whose obsession with numbers and measurement is stifling creativity. I think I speak for a lot of my friends and colleagues when I say that these people SUCK.
In a time of uncertainty and change, we desperately need license to try new and different ideas, if we are to make a difference ourselves. As WARC rightly concludes, "advertisers and agencies should not focus exclusively on accountability and measurement at the expense of idea generation and convention-breaking". After all, as I've heard Jim Taylor of MEC say several times, "what's more important: doing the right thing, or measuring it?"
Yep, sadly, much like knives, elastic bands and guitars, information can be evil and destructive in the wrong hands. But what can we do about it?
The first option is to shut it out as the enemy of creativity, and stonewall the Arithmocracy. The problem there, however, is not just that there's a huge data explosion that we'd be crazy to ignore, but that there's also an undeniable need for clients to get support for and feedback from our ideas, in order to justify their ever-tightening budgets. And if we're not providing it, there's plenty of other, less creative sources who will.
The second option is to find a way for data and creativity - art and science - information and imagination - to co-exist and learn from each other. Coming from a blog called Infomagination, I'm sure I don't need to tell you this is where I believe we should be headed. In the battle for our ideas, I say fight fire with fire - and who better to tear down the Arithmocracy than the Data Punks?!