The rise of Big Data - Mad Men or Math Men?

While the focus was traditionally on creative, we are now witnessing a dramatic switch to a focus on the numbers. The Mad Men of agencies past have become ‘Math’s Men’. The term ‘Math’s Men’ is a term used frequently, and whoever first used the term has hit the nail on the head.

Having recently finished watching ‘Mad Men’ (a bit late I know), those simpler times in advertising very much appealed to me. As someone who works in a 21st century agency, there is a lot to be said for a technology free office. Give me a ‘Mad Men’ office everyday of the week.

No staring at computer screens all day, printers jamming, or reading hundreds of emails, more fresh air, more client contact, more communication with the creative teams. It might have take longer to get the creative work out, but you know when that work goes out, it was scrutinised, re-worked over and over till it was as close to perfection.

With the advent of computers, the internet, and smartphones, creativity has suffered. Creativity is the heartbeat, soul and lifeblood of the business. Unique, original ideas are hard to come by these days. A YouTube link for inspiration here, a funny tweet gone viral there. The creativity is undoubtedly still there, just maybe not as fluid, with more T&C’s attached.

We live in a saturated world, where technology is king within advertising. The creativity and storytelling that is often associated with advertising and marketing are no longer the only skills needed to succeed in the business—and ironically, there’s enough data to prove it. We are now in an age where big campaign ideas can start with either great data or a great idea.

As Epsilon’s Executive Creative Director Mark Fiddes mentioned, data is key for brand communication to be effective.

“The biggest challenge to our industry right now is relevance. For brand communication to be effective, you need big data insights. Only then does the synergy between content creation and traditional advertising become possible. This is where you’ll find today’s breakthrough thinking.

Those long whiskey client lunches are a thing of the past, replaced by a cocktail of data insights, digital marketing, focus groups and research. The problem for the Don Draper’s of this world, is that advertising and marketing is now measurable. The big idea now needs a significant return on investment for the client.

However, it’s is important to remember that advertising will always be a human activity, a blend of creativity and gut instinct. Creativity will always be the driving factor of this business, but big data is here stay, and creativity will have to live with it. If Don Draper was to walk into a 21st century ad agency, he might be surprised to find data calling the shots…