From deep data to creative heights

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Ogilvy & Mather's Tham Khai Meng warned the Advertising Week crowd that data doesn't trump creativity. (Photo courtesy Sovev Media)
Ogilvy & Mather's Tham Khai Meng warned the Advertising Week crowd that data doesn't trump creativity. (Photo courtesy Sovev Media)

Three of the world's most respected creatives rejected the idea that algorithms and computers will ever replace people in the advertising industry at Advertising Week in New York yesterday.

NEW YORK — Three leading creatives appeared on an Advertising Week panel here Monday to discuss the interaction of "big data" and "big creativity."

Tham Khai Meng, worldwide chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather; Sir John Hegarty, co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty; and Chuck Porter, chairman and co-founder of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, described an industry in which greater technological insight supports creativity instead of supplanting it.

The panel was moderated by Campaign Editor-in-Chief Claire Beale.

Porter said advertising should be about being "inspired" and that the way executives at Crispin Porter & Bogusky "look at big data is that every new technology is another way to be creative."

Citing his firm's work for Dublin bookmaking powerhouse Paddy Power, Chuck said that at Crispin Porter & Bogusky "big data allows (the agency) to address topics that we wouldn’t be able to address because they are too edgy."

Porter then showed the firm's controversial 2012 "Chav Tranquilizer" spot to the 200 delegates at the session, which was presented in partnership with Campaign. (The phrase "chav" is similar to "redneck" in the U.S.)

The ad was created in response to a Facebook comment about major U.K. horse-racing events: "I hope chavs don’t ruin Cheltenham like they ruined Ascot."

Khai began his presentation by likening computers to sex: people sharing information about "how to make a copy of themselves." He warned, however, that the amount of data behind a campaign should not be considered the measure of creative effort.

In his own argument against letting data overwhelm creativity, Hegarty said the much-repeated John Wanamaker quote that marketers "know half of their advertising is wasted, just not which half" is the "stupidest thing that has ever been said."

"We have to go out there and convert, and that requires creative thinking," Hegarty said.

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