When it comes to data and creative ideas, which is the chicken and which is the egg?

In old-style marketing, the creative idea was what drove the entire process. Today things are more complicated, because the data point is equally as important as the creative idea. A lot of creative ideas are driven off the data point that helped orient and then steer the idea. On the other hand, to generate the data point you needed a creative idea in the first place; otherwise, you wouldn’t have any action in the market from which to GET a data point. It’s a chicken-or-the-egg situation. You can’t pull apart creative ideas and data points; you can’t say that one drives the other, any more than you can say whether it’s the chicken or the egg that comes first.

So when people ask me, “Do you go with your gut and then use the data to check it? Or do you look at data, and then go with your gut?” I always just say, “Yes.” Data influences creativity—but creativity gives life to the data. It’s not an either-or situation. It’s both-and.

In a February 22, 2016 “Huffington Post” article, Grapeshot CEO John Snyder wrote that data-driven marketing will in fact “spark a creative rebirth.” He goes on to say that creatives will be more successful and have more fun “when their storytelling genius can be activated and informed by precise behavioral and demographic knowledge. We now can apply data to pinpoint the actual moment that people are auto shopping and serve them relevant and compelling messages about model features and financing options. . . . We need to start promoting the truth, which is that data and technology will allow [creatives] to continue to flourish but with an updated toolkit.”

Ash Bendelow, Brave Managing Director, agrees. “Data should be a huge tool in the ongoing fight against mediocrity,” he wrote in “The Drum” on October 27, 2014. “Data should be the way in which agencies can remove subjectivity from decision making. Data should be embraced to help clients de-risk bravery when it comes to creativity. Data should enable greater creativity by giving clients confidence when buying braver ideas.”

And that’s where you come in as the marketing director: you have to claim ownership of both sides—both creativity and data—in order to build the big-picture perspective. These are exciting days to be in marketing. Your job is to steer your departments through the heady opportunities and daunting challenges. To do that, you’re going to have “own” your data, so that you can lead and direct objective creativity.