One of the most oppressive memes of 2013 surely must be “big data.” It has bubbled up out of the quant swamp and gone mainstream. This week’s Ad Age dubs itself “The Data Issue”—irrefutable evidence that big data’s moment is just about over.
The cover story is about “How Data Spawned the Geico Gecko” but a close read reveals quite the opposite. Here, in an interview, is Geico’s CMO Ted Ward:
“The Gecko was “hatched” with absolutely no research or even the intention of producing a long-running, iconic campaign. The fact is we analyzed results from running the first set of Gecko TV spots and liked the bump in business volume. We were able to attribute the increased business to the campaign and decided to move forward with additional Gecko executions.”
So…the idea was a lucky accident, but it seemed to be working so you decided to stick with it. That’s Big Data? Please. That’s advertising. That’s why there are still agencies around and not just server farms.
Data and analytics can help you spot an opportunity in the marketplace. It can help you understand your customer. It can tell you what’s working and what’s not. It cannot, and never will, riff “Geico” into “Gecko.” Why pretend otherwise?
I admire Mr. Ward’s Geico campaigns, and the team at Martin who produces them. Both the gecko and the Cavemen were felicitous one-offs that the marketing team had the good sense to recognize had more potential. The fact that both ideas happened on the Geico account suggests a good working environment and a trusting agency-client relationship. Luck, after all, favors the prepared. Suggesting that sifting through mountains of shopping data takes the luck factor out of the creative equation is just magical thinking.
Long before data became “big”, Ogilvy was brilliant: “I notice increasing reluctance on the part of marketing executives to use judgment; they are coming to rely too much on research, and they use it as a drunkard uses a lamp post for support, rather than for illumination.”
So true John.