Marrying data and creative

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Ryan Joe, senior editor, Direct Marketing News
Ryan Joe, senior editor, Direct Marketing News

Unlike the rest of the marketing world, I'm behind on Mad Men. Currently, I'm only midway through season four, however, I noticed in an episode I recently watched an incident that feels particularly timely today. Copywriter Peggy Olson devises a campaign around Samsonite suitcases targeting women. “Women don't buy suitcases,” her boss Don Draper says. Peggy insists the data indicates otherwise. And there we have it: an early manifestation of the unnecessary battle between data and creativity.

This month's issue would seem to fall squarely on the side of data (indeed, our first feature focuses on how Big Data helps brands better target customers). Our On the Beat features look at how specific datapoints influence targeting in various communication channels. We also have some excellent opinions in our Plug-ins section around metrics and tracking.

Of course, data and creative are ultimately complementary. Data alone doesn't drive brand engagement and great creative, if not properly focused, often seems purposeless. (Ever watch a great video ad only to wonder afterward what exactly the ad was trying to sell?) Consider our main feature on the emerging area of mobile search marketing. In order to be successful, mobile search marketers need new data — often real-time data — to determine what on-the-go consumers are searching for, how they're searching for it, individual device profiles, geographies and more. Brands need an array of new datapoints simply to get their customers' attention.

And yet, so many other more creatively oriented considerations drive the success of mobile search. For instance, following a mobile search query, will the customer be directed to a mobile landing page? Is that mobile landing page well-designed — in other words, will it entice the ever-elusive mobile customer to engage or will she move on to something else?

The flip side is what happens when creative becomes the primary dictator of a marketing campaign. This month's Battle of the Brands pits Whole Foods against Trader Joe's, and reporter Nicole Spector reveals that Trader Joe's' entire social media marketing strategy (we'll use that term generously) is both crowdsourced and completely independent of the Trader Joe's company. In other words, Trader Joe's lets its fans market online for the brand. While it's amazing that the company has developed so much brand loyalty it can afford to do this, this laissez faire attitude prevents Trader Joe's from offering targeted social media deals, coupons or any other customer benefits that might drive sales.

So in the spirit of data-driven creativity, we are announcing the opening of entries for our annual Caples Awards — convening from Dec. 4 to 6 — which honor the most innovative integrated marketing campaigns and will be judged by top international creative directors. For more information about this celebration, please visit

And finally, one more exciting announcement: Direct Marketing News is thrilled to welcome our new Editor-in-Chief, Ginger Conlon. She will shepherd this magazine forward as we continue to report on new developments in our industry. Please join me in welcoming her at!

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