Busy Being Born: Creative Technology & Analytics
Twice in the past week I have had conversations about the creative use of technology. My point was that technology by itself has all the elements necessary for creativity to flourish. Coding is creative. The web has progressed to date only because of those who thought about technology from a creative perspective. It’s something many people don’t appreciate.
However, we’ve now reached a point in the development of the web where the inverse has become just as important. Technology’s use with creative will powerfully change the web experience for people by delivering more relevance and more engaging experiences. Creative is becoming part and parcel of the platforms where it resides and applications that deliver and present it.
Right now testing technology sits at the forefront. It’s been amazing to witness the rise of creative testing over the four years I’ve been speaking about it on the conference circuit. From 0-70% of the audience in 4 years and every one of the major testing players acquired by companies like Omniture, Interwoven, Accenture & Acxiom.
As we move towards a real-time intelligent/dynamic web, content targeting and analytics will play a larger role and get rolled up into creative technology. It’s important to understand at its core creative tech is about two things - rules and results.
Data Driven Design
In the past few weeks two high profile events took place that illuminated the role of technology on creative.
Facebook’s redesign: Whatever you want to say about the design it was driven by data (or FB needs to sell NOW). As Scott Rafer mentioned at SES the design really was about revenue metrics as much as it was copying Twitter. It still amazes me how many creative decisions are not about revenue. Which bring us to…
The departure of Google’s Visual Design Lead Doug Bowman: He could no longer work at a company that made most every design decisions based on testing and revenue data rather than an opined aesthetic. There is a great discussion of that conflict here.
What we can learn from Facebook and Google – two of the most technically savvy organizations on the web. Both are at their core about delivering rules based content. Both use data on revenue generation to drive design. They are the blueprint.
For all the Silicon Valley geekery and new found fascination with quants on Madison Avenue there is a giant issue playing out. Design power. You see, as soon as your audience has the right answer the rules of creative change. Design becomes a question of how well you know your audience. To paraphrase Steve Jobs design is not about what it looks like, but how it works. This is not an ad agency strong suit.
The agency problem (and one I’ve experienced once over twice) is that literally and figuratively they can’t afford to test. Testing creates too much conflict (fearful Creative Directors) and inefficiency (training, increased costs & multiple creative). I’m aware that some like WPP are talking the talk but change would require ground up realignment of their workforce, business operations and structure. Even if they tried they may simply be too big and too old to succeed at this.
Additionally, the progress of creative technology is in many respects making testing more difficult (but more valuable). As mentioned, moving the needle now is becoming more about targeted content and the dynamic real-time web. Testing informs these rules but this scales at a content delivery/management platform, something Madison Avenue is once again far behind on. In the web's next phase technology needs to be your Chief Strategy Officer and the data collected from your audience needs to be your Creative Director.
The irony is that there really isn’t anything more creative than testing. Testing allows creativity to flourish within a company. I call it creative distribution. Getting more creative variation in front of more people to measure results is a good thing – always!
Testing democratizes the creative process. Good ideas can come from anywhere. Testing also allows the ultimate creative license. Radical ideas can have a place right beside the status quo. Often those radical ideas are the ones that get the best results. While other times it may something as simple as the color of a button that matters.
Most importantly testing allows you to learn and get better as a creative. Measurement lets you know how good you really are as a creative. Business is competitive – why shouldn’t creative be as well? Maybe one day we’ll see a league of optimizers where we keep track of their stats on an ROI basis. Maybe even Rotoptimization.
Testing, targeting, data and analytics have continued to pick up speed in the digital world with the explosion of PPC and continued velocity towards a “pay-per” economy. There is no going back. This is exactly what the web’s “services” model should be and it remains the web’s economic destiny -- many would say we’re already there.
Those of us working on developing creative technology are now in a period of tremendous innovation. Our Newport 65 is upon us and we're going electric. As with everything creative there will always be people with rigid ideas of what creative is and whom they look to for creative ideas. There will also be another group of people. People who just get better results. People busy being born, not dying.