DMA’s &Then 2017: Marketing Requires Data, Creativity, and Vision

Is marketing a science or an art? On the second day of DMA’s annual &Then conference, a keynote speaker came down firmly on the side of: both. His take on the disconnect between data and creativity kicked off a day that included discussion of the creative opportunities presented by emerging technologies such as augmented and virtual reality and self-driving cars.

“Data’s one of those things that we have this propensity to go, ‘Well, that’s one side of the brain, and all of the creative people are on the other side of the brain, and betwixt the twain shall never meet.’ I think it’s fair to say that the pendulum has swung to the side of the science of marketing these days rather than the art of persuasion. My answer to that is no, it’s actually both,” said Alan Schulman, managing director of brand and creative content at Deloitte Digital, during the morning keynote. “We are still in the behavioral economics business, not the finite economics business; we still have to account for human behavior but we also have to factor that into what we can know from a data perspective because we can know now more than we ever have before.”

He went on to say that what’s new in the current environment is that marketers can now leverage data to inform and validate ideas before they produce them, ensuring that success is more plausible and likely. He also drew a distinction between data and insights, saying that data “is the collection of information,” while insights are “the research and findings and interpretations that inform the creative idea.”

Transforming the transportation industry was on the minds of others as well, notably in the session “The Connected Car, Your New Media Channel,” which explored the opportunities it will provide for marketers. “Car buying is going to go down, but the transportation industry itself is going to become exponentially larger and this is good news for advertisers. This is not about automotive marketing; this is about marketing in a world in which our transportation options have changed radically,” said Brad Berens, chief strategy officer at the Center for the Digital Future at USC Annenberg. “For the first time in 100 years since the Model T rolled off the assembly line, we have liquidity in how people are thinking about transportation.”

That people will buy and own cars is still “the default assumption for 2017,” but Berens, for one, sees that changing. “Skipping ahead five years I think we’re going to see a larger penetration of self-driving cars. Ten years after that it’s likely that humans will no longer be allowed to drive at all in the same way that you have to go to a ranch to ride a horse; you can’t ride a horse down Broadway in Manhattan,” he said. “It’s very likely that starting in 2025 or so humans will no longer be allowed to drive because they won’t be good enough at it. We believe that the car is going to be one of the most important media environments in peoples’ lives, particularly if people are no longer driving cars. Suddenly they have a lot more attention to spend on other things, and those are going to be YouTube and Candy Crush and Pokémon Go and everything else you can imagine.”

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