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Picture: Unsplash/Andrew George
Picture: Unsplash/Andrew George

For brands to cut through the clutter requires breakthrough creative work. But in a world where data has become a powerful currency, what are the roles of gut instinct and creative thinking in wowing consumers?

A recent FM Redzone discussion, moderated by Tilt chief creative officer Arye Kellman, focused on this topic. There was a robust debate about whether advertising should be leading with gut or with data.

The sweet spot between data and instinct lies where both are used, said M&C Saatchi chief creative officer Abel Neo Mashigo.  Much as we need to use data to make an informed decision, gut and intuition need to come into play also. Data and instinct must be balanced, he said. Once you are informed by data you can rely on gut to get to a great idea. Data should never be used at the expense of creativity, yet marketers, too, are relying on data now more than ever before, rather than on gut and intuition.

Joe Public United group chief strategic officer Laurent Marty concurred with System1 Group chief innovation officer Orlando Wood that an epidemic of left-brained thinking is to blame for advertising’s plummeting effectiveness. Wood is the author of Lemon. How the advertising brain turned sour. “In a strategist, left brain thinking dominates,” he said, adding that over the years he has become more creative, to the point that he now champions gut and instinct because, in his experience, this is how the best work is created.

A recurring debate between creative and media agencies is where the line is between data and creativity, said Carat group strategy director Graham Deneys. In an ideal world, the two kinds of agencies will work together to co-develop an insight. Data is critical, Deneys said, adding that it is important to know how to read and interpret it.

When you’re faced with two insights you need to choose the one that has “legs” and can deliver the best work, argued Havas Southern Africa CEO Lynn Madeley. “While the role of data is really important, that of gut instinct is too. It’s regarded as the second brain and should never be ignored.”

Data remains relevant when it comes to purpose.  Before Covid many brands were beginning to realise that purpose cannot live in a corporate social responsibility silo in parallel with marketing communications, and that purposefulness and meaningfulness need to be intertwined in the brand message. Covid has accelerated purpose, said Madeley, putting it front and centre. “Our job is to create purpose that encourages consumers to buy the product while benefiting the community,” she said, adding that brands that are not purposeful enough will struggle to survive.

VMLY&R creative director Tshegofatso Phetlhe said clients whose brands don’t have a purpose can’t expect to replicate campaigns such as those conceptualised for brands like Dove or Nike. Brands should not change their purpose simply to be trendy, she said; purpose needs to be consistent.

Watch the event here.

The big take-out: While the role of data is really important, so too is gut instinct.


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