How Big Idea Marketing Can Live on in Data-Driven Storytelling

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

big idea marketing
Credit: Pixabay by Mohamed Hassan

In an era not so long ago, creative directors lived in a world where the big idea was the champion — and that champion came from highly compensated (more or less) idea makers, both themselves and their creative teams, and the big idea was put to the advertising test. If big idea marketing were provocative enough, then it might win creative awards at a global creative festival. Other creatives would fawn, congratulate each other, and champagne would flow. Not a bad outcome, if you’re a creative director.

But did the advertising work? Did it achieve a client business objective? Did it engage customers and produce sales, orders, leads …? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Back then, only direct marketers cared about measurement.

How Data Has Changed Advertising … Forever

Enter data. Well, data entered the advertising marketplace when direct mail and direct selling made its debut. But not to discount direct mail pioneers and their cousins in direct-response print and broadcast and telemarketing, let’s fast forward to the digital era. Wow! Today, do we have data!

Combine that creative genius with a heavy dose of data insights and strategy, and now we have data-driven creative — where creative effort is measured against action. No more gut instincts and guesswork. Agencies and in-house marketing departments can prove that their creative ideation works and, in fact, can use prospect and customer data to drive the creative ideation to predict and produce defined business outcomes.

Is there still a role for big idea marketing? Of course! In fact, breakthrough creative is indeed a mechanism for breaking clutter. But now, we have the means for one more de-clutter breakthrough: relevance. Using data insights to drive strategy, combined with compelling creative and storytelling, and now we’re proving our C-suite mettle.

There’s a role for creative festivals.

Rethinking Ad Festivals

But how about a data festival … or a data-driven storytelling festival? Well, we may just have one, and it’s been around for a while. It’s the International ECHO Award Competition, with its call for entries now underway. (I’m a member of the Data & Marketing Association ECHO Board of Governors.)

If an agency today is not proving its command of creative, data and relevance, then it’s not proving its presence as a business driver — no matter how many creative trophies are in the case. Winning an ECHO is different. It’s always been about data-driven storytelling, and it’s always been about strategy, creative AND results, more or less in equal measure. ECHOs serve as proof points for agencies, and in-house marketing teams, that they have data chops. They serve as signals to C-suites that ECHO winners are trusted business partners who know ad tech, martech, data management platforms, analytics prowess and have a discipline to test and measure — all in equal faith to the creative big idea.

Left brain, right brain. Yes, there’s still necessary discussion today about data, measurement and unfettered creative. But in today’s world, we can have both creative and relevance through data. In fact we must have both to capture elusive consumer attention, and to produce action … to prove our worth.

This roster of agencies let’s fast forward — and their agency groups let’s fast forward — have been named ECHO Award finalists, and Diamond, Gold, Silver and Bronze ECHO trophy winners in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Who will be joining them in 2018? In October, in Las Vegas, we’ll find out.

Credit: DMA

Author: Chet Dalzell

Marketing Sustainably: A blog posting questions, opportunities, concerns and observations on sustainability in marketing. Chet Dalzell has 25 years of public relations management and expertise in service to leading brands in consumer, donor, patient and business-to-business markets, and in the field of integrated marketing. He serves on the ANA International ECHO Awards Board of Governors, as an adviser to the Direct Marketing Club of New York, and is senior director, communications and industry relations, with the Digital Advertising Alliance. Chet loves UConn Basketball (men's and women's) and Nebraska Football (that's just men, at this point), too! 

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