Creative Dialogue

The Great Debate: Is Data Killing Creativity?

As part of Destination NSW’s Vivid Ideas festival, Adobe hosted an event to debate a topic increasingly important to creatives and marketers alike: Is Data Killing Creativity?

In other words, as Big Data is becoming more prominent in business strategy and analysis, what effect does it have on creative thinking?

Here is a video snapshot of the event.

Six debaters, who included academics, marketers, analysts and a creative director, were brought to order by Master of Ceremonies Jane Caro. With 30 years of experience in advertising, Caro opened the debate with a humorous skewering of the marketing industry, as well as the gender and generational divide of the two teams.

Up first and speaking For the debate was Oliver Freeman, a writer and self-described Futurist. Freeman argued that data is a backwards-thinking tool, capable of generating insights based on historic trends but ultimately unable to mimic human ingenuity. In his opening, he shaped the theme of the For speakers’ argument: that people and organisations are drowning in data which they are struggling to analyse and control, at the expense of creative thinking.

Dr Chelsea Wise, Head of Behavioural Science at Pureprofile

The first Against speaker and counter to Freeman’s argument was Dr Chelsea Wise, Head of Behavioural Science at Pureprofile. Dr Wise made the claim that data actually drives creativity, providing fuel for new ideas through insights. The Against team’s argument for the night was that data can happily co-exist with creativity, and also support successful creative projects by providing contextual understanding.

Dr.Fiona Kerr

Dr Fiona Kerr, the Systems and Neural Complexity Specialist at Adelaide University, presented a scientific viewpoint that the influx of data is at odds with creative ideation. As our brains absorb and process information in a linear fashion, or as they become overwhelmed with data, it becomes difficult to enter the mode of abstraction associated with creative thinking.

Vivid Sydney -Holly Joshi

Echoing Dr Wise on the Against team was Holly Joshi, Senior Manager of Optimisation and Analytics APAC at SapientNitro. Data, Joshi emphasised, helps us learn more about our world, and enables marketers to know their audiences better. Little bits of data, rather than hindering the creative process, can throw up illuminating insights that lead to a creative idea.

 Luke Chess

The last For speaker was Luke Chess, Creative Director of Sydney agency Mammal. Luke enthusiastically championed creativity as an act that needs to be unfettered from metrics and given a pedestal in its own right. Great ideas and great campaigns, he argued, are generated not by data but by people.

 Jenny Williams, CMO, HCF

Jenny Williams, CMO of HCF, then summed up for the Against team by countering Luke’s thesis. While people do come up with great ads without the use of data, they also create terrible ones. Using data, marketers can surface exactly which of those ideas are terrible; the ones that don’t resonate with audiences or generate interest. Data, she claims, doesn’t kill creativity – it kills the creative ego.

Vivid Sydney Is data killing creativity

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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