Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Why advertising may be the last refuge for creativity

It's well known that these days, the entertainment industries - particularly music and film - use algorithms to assess hit potential, based on past performance. 'Creative Risk Management' company Epagogix proclaims loudly on their website:

"Data-based decision-making is on the rise all around us!"


"The art of quantitative prediction is reshaping business and government."

Now, it is debatable whether "quantitative prediction" should be classified as an art, especially when you observe the results of this omnipresent rise. The last time I checked what was on at the local cinema, I was offered Fast & Furious 6, Scary Movie 23, Hangover 99 or Alvin and the Chipmunks 666.

It used to be that if you weren't good enough to be a Hollywood producer, you might be able to scrape a living in the grubby world of advertising. And these days, that may even be a preferable existence. You see, much as Epagogix and their like may rub their hands together in glee when they see the advertising budgets of the big global brands, it's hellishly difficult to predict advertising success based on the past, despite what certain market research agencies may tell you.

For all our shift to "conversations instead of disruption", advertising is still, for the most part, uninvited. The fast-forward button on the video, the channel change on the remote control have been joined by the AdBlock app. You won't often see a queue of people like the one above eagerly awaiting your next TV ad, unless you're John Lewis.

All of this means that the element of surprise, newness, chance is still vital in creating good brand communications. Creativity, in other words.

Finally, I would always question a claim for "prediction". Prediction of what, exactly? In most cases, the talk is of box-office success - bucks and billions. And, fair enough, money still makes the world go round.

But can anyone "quantitatively predict" which films will change the world, which will be hailed as classics in a hundred years? I doubt it.

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