Creatives have never not relied on data.

I read with amusement a debate that creatives’ “intuition” and their “gut instinct” are more important than data in the creative process. This is a false argument.

Creatives need to remember an ancient truth.

Ideas do not arrive in a vacuum. You cannot create something from nothing. Twas ever thus.

As a creative director and copywriter for 26 years, a teacher of writing the creative brief for 11 years, and a writer for more than 50 years, I know from experience that the spark of any idea, even a bad idea, comes from information.

Information arrives in different forms: A memory, a newspaper story, an overheard conversation, a white paper.

Creatives forget that their “intuition” and “guts” are not blank slates. They are informed by professional experience, life, curiosity. Even research. In the ad business, we turn to a source for this accumulated wisdom. This is typically presented in a creative brief.

Like every creative before me, I have worked from many, too many, hideously uninspiring creative briefs. Like every creative, I muddled through and solved the problem anyway, with often effective (sales increasing) creative in spite of this handicap.

How did I manage?

Not out of sheer luck, nor by virtue of a good guess. And not because of my intuition or my gut. I dug deep and did my homework. I played the part of the researcher. I asked a ton of questions. I found what I needed, and what the uncreative brief lacked: An insight, a previously hidden piece of company history, an overlooked email from a customer worth its weight in gold.

I did what all intrepid creatives do when the brief is wanting: I figured it out.

So please stop moaning about data-driven creative. It’s all data-driven. Ain’t no such thing as a non-data driven creative idea.

For further evidence, read James Webb Young’s A Technique for Producing Ideas. Or read it again. The first of his five steps is:

Gather Material

In other words, inform yourself. Learn. Absorb as much relevant information as you can. Then synthesize it.

Creatives love to complain. This is just another complaint.

So please shut up.

We know better.

There are bigger problems than this one.