Hamish Nicklin at LEAD 2019: Too much focus on data at expense of creativity

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Hamish Nicklin at LEAD 2019: Too much focus on data at expense of creativity

Speaking at the Advertising Association’s annual conference, The Guardian’s chief revenue officer said that the industry over-focuses on data.

The data debate

Nicklin's view is that the ad industry has "massively oversteered towards data", whereas creativity also needs to be taken into consideration. He added that the trend towards data-based insight has resulted in brands ignoring "so much of the media that is proven to work just because it doesn't have data and targeting at its heart... [which] doesn't mean it doesn't work".

Fellow panellist, WPP's UK county manager Karen Blackett, agreed that "creativity and data together is the holy grail". While she praised the "wealth of data" tech has allowed advertisers to tap into, she cautioned that it had to be used responsibly to avoid advertisers coming across as stalkers.

The session followed Keith Weed's keynote, where he highlighted some key facts relating to targeting and personalisation. The president of the Ad Association and Unilever's CMCO said that more than 50% of over 35s and 30% of millennials find personalisation annoying. With 53% of marketers planning on increasing personalisation in the next year, finding the right balance when it comes to targeting was a much-discussed issue.

Trust in crisis

Trust was the central theme of the conference, with Credos releasing new research into how consumers feel about the advertising industry and the ads they see. The work found that people often feel bombarded by advertising and called out "creepy" ads that follow them around; both of which are damaging people's trust in advertising – currently at a record low. The work supports Newsworks' analysis of TouchPoints data, which shows that 79% get annoyed by ads that follow them around online and 62% are put off clicking on ads for a new brand as a result.

Addressing the issue of over personalisation, Nicklin told delegates that the industry needs to get together to agree on ethics and morals about how data is used by advertisers. Meanwhile, Blackett said that rebuilding trust comes down to owning problems, responding quickly and effectively, communicating advertising's purpose and creating brand stories that are "built on human truth".

But what of Brexit?

Also taking to the stage during the morning, political columnist and broadcaster Steve Richards focused on an equally troubling subject: Brexit. Describing the saga as "a Brexit boxset Netflix thriller", what's his view of the key players and storylines?

Theresa May: "Her determination to keep going is superhuman... her strategy is to get through each day and then think about what the hell to do next."

Jeremy Corbyn: "If he's ever going to win an election, it needs to happen soon. This spring or summer."

No deal: "[It] will be the biggest cock up in centuries if this was to happen... historians would look back in fascination as to how this calamity arose."

A second referendum: "The referendum option was hardly referred to once [during Tuesday's Commons vote]... the one clear thing to emerge from the fog of last night was that this is a House of Commons that is going to take Britain out of the EU.”

A new party: "The Brexit debate has produced strange inter-party dances... I think there might be [a third party created]. It will be driven by the trauma of all this."

To sum up, Richards said that the current political situation is the weirdest in Britain since 1945 and something that we are likely to be still debating in 80 years time. 

by Jessie Sampson 31/01/19

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