Sneak peek of APG “Is data killing great work” event

The industry’s fascination with data and the impact on agency output will be the focus of an APG event in Toronto Tuesday.

Entitled “Is data killing great work?” the intent is to explore how data is reshaping marketing, the ways agencies are being effected, how planners need to adapt, and the risks and rewards of moving toward more data-infused agency work.

The event will feature a debate format, bringing together a data expert, a strategist and a creative in a discussion moderated by Hilton Barbour.

Ahead of the event, we asked the participants to share their own best case for and against the evening’s central question:

Mark Tomblin, chief strategy officer at Juniper Park\TBWA:

Yes: Data isn’t killing great work. But I worry that our obsession with it is starting to. And of course, it’s not just data. Data is all part of our industry’s frankly unhealthy fascination with the merely new at the expense of those perhaps boring but established things that might actually make a difference to our clients’ brands in the here and now. TV anyone? Cinema? Radio?

No: Data has always been central to planning and strategy—indeed, it’s hard to imagine any kind of strategic thinking without some form of data to inform it. And if you grant that planning—at least when well done—makes for better creative, then clearly better data leads to better planning, which leads ineluctably to better work. I call this kind of data research.

Jamie Michaels, head of brand strategy at Twitter Canada

No: Access to data in advertising is not new. However, the speed of technological change, [combined with a] decline in attention spans and increase in consumer choice has brought this argument to the forefront of advertising today. Working with some of the biggest brands, I see CMOs using data to make smarter, more strategic decisions around their customers. Creative and media agencies are using data to deliver advertising that is more relevant (targeted, interest based) and aligned to consumers’ consumption habits (read: less than six-second videos!). I strongly believe this is to the benefit of brands and consumers alike.

Yes: The flip side of data-driven creative is a “race to the middle” approach, meaning, brands could be too focused on data and less willing to take creative chances. In my view, the best brands in the world use data to drive and measure creative and media. They also supplement their “always-on” strategies with innovative brand activations built from the same insights—just executed with a “big idea” approach.

Ian Mackenzie, executive creative director at FCB/Six

Yes: But not because data and creativity are fundamentally at odds. Instead, it’s because the opportunity to combine the two is not being properly merchandised to creative people. With clients divesting old forms of marketing creative, the ad industry’s talk track on data as some kind of enemy is stunting work at both the traditional and progressive ends of the continuum.

No: Data is just another in a long line of constraints creativity has been thriving within since the dawn of time. For evidence, just look at some of the best work in the world right now. Pedigree’s SelfieStix, the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s The Paralympic Network, The Times’ JFK Unsilenced. Clients are simply asking that we use the most powerful tools at our disposal to drive creativity and efficacy. They’re not at odds.

For more information on the event, visit

David Brown