Expert view: Even data planners can be creative

I recently judged a creative competition and was surprised at the sheer lack of imagination and creativity, especially as a good few entries came from a number of well-known agencies. Are we getting complacent in our creative departments? Have we lost our fizz?

The good news is that creativity is certainly not dead. It may be sleeping in some creative departments, but it's wide awake in many other areas, such as data, media, print and research, which are often considered more as processes.

A night out at the direct marketing industry Smart Awards with data agencies might seem like hell to many creatives. I was one of only two creatives in an audience of 150 people, but the evening was both fun and illuminating - and as drunken as any creative bash. Data planners are clever people, but I was surprised at just how creative data has become.

Creatives are often shielded from data planners, probably in the belief that we would find them too analytical and they would find us too chaotic.

In fact, data planners are the modern-day Edisons and Einsteins. If, as psychologists believe, creativity is all about making new connections, then the more interaction there is, the more creativity you get. Personally, I'm all for greater teamwork.

A prime example of creativity and data working together is evident in a certain phone company's use of digital print to personalise mailers.

By referring to its data, the company knows its customers' buying habits, profiles, addresses, exactly how far they are from stores and how they can get there. This then feeds into the creative idea.

Media is another area that's getting more creative. The internet has served as a kick up the backside for a sector that has been complacent for far too long. The new breed of media-neutral planners are thinking outside the old media boxes.

Communications firm Monkey's guerrilla campaign for housing charity Shelter took media to the people. It was also a great data-capturing exercise. Other charities are embracing new opportunities even before commercial brands do. Examples include Oxfam's use of podcasting and the RSPB's use of bluecasting – the delivery of content to Bluetooth-enabled devices such as mobile phones, personal organisers and portable computers.

Creativity is no longer the preserve of creative departments – it's now prevalent in all other areas. I predict that it won't be long before we are giving the creative gongs to data planners, researchers and media planners.

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