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How does data drive the creative process?

Author: perkinsk

It’s an age-old question, which came first…the chicken or the egg? In the world of advertising, the two forces at the center of this delicate dance are the creative idea and critical consumer insights derived from data. Data seems to be driving more decisions. Look no further than this past year’s [Cannes Lions Awards]( which now features a creative data category award. Even here, the balance between art and science is far from perfect. Marketing managers have to sift through the recommendations made by their media strategist and creative agencies to reach the consumer of one. The challenge facing these leaders today is how much of their success relies on the creative idea itself and how much of it is driven by the ever-expanding pool of data available about the consumers they are trying to reach.

To get further insight on this question, I had a chance to speak with someone charged with making these critical decisions every day. Suzi Yebio leads advertising efforts for Chick-fil-A, a privately held American fast food restaurant chain headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, and known as the “Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich”. In 2017, the company reported $9 billion in revenue. In her role, she oversees the creative work for the brand’s local and national efforts.

Me: Suzi, thanks so much for taking time to chat. You’ve worked for so many brands across a variety of industries. In your experience, how would you characterize the relationship between data and decisions made around creative for your current brand’s efforts?

Suzi: Data is obviously critical in so many of the stages of developing good creative. As we all know, the quality of your creative, and how effective it is, has a direct correlation to the quality of the brief (whether it’s the client or the agency brief), which relies on data to determine what it is you’re going after and trying to accomplish. It’s important to use data to help you identify the right insight and to develop the powerful creative idea. So use it early on and throughout the process as you continue to refine creative.

Me: Could you share an instance when data led to a deeper insight that allowed your team to pivot strategy and better reach your target audience?

Suzi: At one point in my career working for a large brand, there was an instance where data helped us realize that the target we’d been spending millions to reach was not the right target. That our business model wasn’t designed to that target and that it would be more effective for us if we narrowed our target. We pivoted and had to get more targeted to reach a subset of that audience that was a better fit for what our business product offered.

Me: How much data is too much? How has your team tackled this question in the face of growing access to consumer information?

Suzi: Ideally, the clearer you are about your objective upfront, the easier it will be to focus on the right data to leverage. That will help you sift through what is sometimes an overwhelming amount of data and identify what the right data is.

Me: For young professionals out there just getting started in the advertising profession, what three skills do you think they need to master to succeed in this exciting profession?

Suzi: Be curious! So much of what we do as marketers is based on a curiosity about how people think, what they want, what’s important to them, etc. That curiosity will lead to greater insight and understanding of who you’re trying to reach.

Don’t be afraid to be wrong or to fail. There is value in the experience and the learning that comes from that which you can apply to the next idea and the next one after that. Just make sure you’re constantly learning and refining your craft.

Don’t forget to have fun! As far as careers go, what we get to do on a day-to-day basis as marketers is fun. And when you’re having fun, it will show in the quality of your work, especially if that work is designed to connect with and resonate with customers.

Expect to hear more on this, and other trending topics, at the April 6 Greenlee Summit in Ames. Learn more here:

Mirtha Vaca-Wilkens is a Senior Creative Project Manager for Communique USA, Inc., an Atlanta-based marketing firm where she provides a broad range of communications and marketing support to Communique USA and its clients. She is currently assigned to Chick-fil-A where she supports the Integrated Media Team.