THE GLORIFIED BIG NONSENSE?
Just when we thought we’ve heard the last of it, the issue surfaced again last weekend during a workshop held at a venue along CMD road, Ketu. The big data expert spoke glowingly about the beauty of big data until a crazy creative from an ad agency stood up and said, “with all due respect sir, this whole talk about big data is nothing but big nonsense!” Everyone froze. The big data expert looked as if someone suddenly spat into his face. Argument ensued. In fact, knowledge gleaned from the squabble of wits inspired this piece.
Simply put, collecting information from traditional business activities and from new sources such as social media is what constitutes the “almighty” big data. Our very own Bayo Adekanmbi is a leading light in the school of big data, coupled with the teeming trendspotters across the Nigeria advertising landscape.
And we’ve been told how Amazon is making a big kill in sales via big data. Also with the Internet of Things (IoT), how national intelligence agencies, financial services, entertainment industry, Facebook, Twitter, Alibaba.com, Uber etc., are all thriving on the treasure trove of data. Also, how the likes of eyeka.com, a creative agency established in the cloud is poised to poach businesses off our brick and mortal agencies. Steve Babaeko, CEO of X3M, even said: “data is the new oil of the world!”But preening it down to the creative advertising industry, the poser has always been: Big data or Big insight, which is which? And this is the same poser that disrupted the workshop described in the opening of this piece.
According to Thamkhai Meng, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer, and Chairman of Ogilvy, “from the torrent of cute selfies that ladies upload, (big) data analysts proposed that today’s women generally believe they’re more beautiful. However, our field surveys revealed that only 4% of women truly considered themselves beautiful.” This profound insight from Ogilvy led to the award winning Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty.”
Another similar example is the Johnnie Walker “Keep Walking” campaign created by Bartle, Bogle Hegarty (BBH). Sir John Hegarty, BBH founder, stressed: “what I gathered from social media makes me feel being successful is the ultimate end.” In fact, surveys later proved that success, to the truly successful ones (the Johnny Walker drinkers) is just a start point. With success you strive to be more. This grain of truth birthed the “Keep Walking” campaign.
Also, raw insights mined from a live Focus Group discussion inspired the highly successful “Lost” campaign created by Noah’s Ark, for Airtel Nigeria.
In addition, despite being ingrained with big data, the first Artificial Intelligent (AI) robot to be hired as a retail assistant at a Margiotta Supermarket in Edinburgh, Scotland, was fired one week after employment due to “incompetence.” (Please Google the full story)
So, from all the above, does it mean that the so-called big data is nothing but a glorified big nonsense? This is not the position of this piece.
To Chuck Porter, co-founder, Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B): “big data is more about correlation. Great advertising is more about insightful causation”
Correlation is simply a patterned behavior. Causation is what originated such pattern. Great insight for great advertising comes from the latter.
Truth be told, sole reliance on big data, which is often derived from large user-generated or social media platforms, might as well be you relying on information generated by an incredibly biased or skewed user-base. Gender, geography, race, income, and a range of other social and economic factors all play a role in how information is produced and reproduced. So, we risk ignoring a lot of important nuances if relying on big data as the sole generator of insight. On the other hand, a unique nuance is the soul of impactful creativity. In effect, one can safely say big data, and our good old field-dig for big insight should go hand-in-hand.
To Hegarty, “human beings are not (just) a collection of algorithms.”
In other words, when big data gives a patterned behavior, our ontological dig for raw insight should be deployed to uncover the hidden instigators of such patterned behavior; hence a great ad is born.
… I’M JUST SAYING.