It’s What You Do With Big Data That Counts

Leaders of BBH, Crispin, Ogilvy stress the human touch

Big data can inform creativity but is no substitute for the human ingenuity.

To illustrate that point during an Advertising Week panel discussion today, Crispin Porter + Bogusky's Chuck Porter quoted everyone from Disney's Michael Eisner ("In any new medium, a great story is the killer app") and DDB's Bill Bernbach ("The memorable never came from a formula") to Albert Einstein ("Imagination is more important than knowledge").

Of the last quote, Porter said, "This is on the wall of my office. I think it ought to be on the wall of everybody's office."

Bartle Bogle Hegarty's John Hegarty used ads—from his agency, of course—to show how creative minds interpret data. In one case, the agency found in research that Johnnie Walker drinkers are successful but concluded that success, for them, is a journey, not a destination. That insight gave rise to the brand's long-running, "Keep Walking" campaign.

"Data stimulates insights," Hegarty said, simply.

Similarly, Ogilvy & Mather worldwide creative chief Tham Khai Meng cited Unilever research from 2004 that showed only 2 percent of the women the company polled considered themselves beautiful. That finding inspired one of Ogilvy's most heralded efforts in recent years: the "Campaign for Real Beauty" for Unilever's Dove, which continues today.

Porter, Hegarty and Tham also agreed that data is nothing new and need not be feared. But again, it's what you do with it that counts. As Tham said, in closing, "Don't worry. We will still be the masters of the universe."