I spend a lot of time at work immersed in data.

Things like metrics, readership, circulation, traffic and so on. Peril of the job.

Fact is, our industry is obsessed with data. Everything has to be measurable, quantifiable and justifiable. We’ve become buried in statistics.

Is this a good thing? I’d argue, no. Well, sort of.


Data is a valuable part of the job. When it comes to analysing the potential effectiveness of a media channel, data is often all you have. Particularly if this magazine, radio or TV station is in Dubai or some place you’ve never seen or experienced. It’s an indispensable aspect of marketing.

To a point.

At some stage, data becomes so all consuming that it cripples creativity. It can prevent the all-important ‘leap of understanding’ that all the best communication has.
Many a great campaign has been killed at concept because it didn’t ‘test well’. I don’t know, I really wonder if focus groups are worth anything at all. After all, what kind of person has the time and inclination to sit for three hours drinking awful coffee with stale biscuits and watching commercials on a Wednesday afternoon? I wouldn’t do it. Would you? Are they really representative of the ‘average Joe/Jane’ that the focus group organisers claim? I think not.

But I digress. At some point, you have to step away from the data and trust your instincts.

Many business people don’t like terms like intuition, or inspiration, because they’re not predictable. They can’t be budgeted for and they don’t fit nicely in a spreadsheet. What they sometimes fail to understand is that, whilst their business may be based on data and numbers, advertising for the most part isn’t.
Sure, there is plenty of numbers surrounding it. Things like budgets, schedules, plans or space. But the big part, the fun part, the crafting of a message powerful enough to get into the consumers’s head is mostly intuition.

So why does intuition have to be scary? We all have it and we all use it every day. Every conversation we have, every interaction, every moment, our reactions are driven by intuition. Education plays a role in shaping that intuition, as does our upbringing, our social networks (the physical kind primarily, not the Facebooky kind so much) and our interests and passions.
The insights into human nature that all the best ads put to great effect are usually based not on data, but a strong understanding of who we are and what motivates us. The ‘basic truths’ of people.

So if we all have it and it forms such a big part of our daily lives, we should embrace it.
Love the unpredictable. Because it’s not really, is it? If you understand something well enough (that’s the data part) then even the most unpredictable person or situation becomes easy.

Well, that’s my perspective anyway. If you know me well enough, this blog topic will come as no surprise.

See what I did there?