Creative agencies need to reframe the way they use insights to ‘get the juices flowing’



Creative agencies need to look again at the way they use data and insights as the current method for most “is never going to get the creative juices flowing”, argued the managing director of strategic research agency Face Asia Andrew Ho.

Speaking at Spikes Asia in Singapore, Ho said: “We look for insight to inspire great creative, so why don’t we hunt for insight in more creative ways?

“Everyone hates research, it’s not just creative people. It’s an uninspiring environment, we are starting the creative process in the worst environment possible.”

Ho identified the problem as a lack of communication, adding: “We don’t talk any more. 

“The way the businesses have been generated,  our jobs have been to specialise and specialise and specialise to the point where this concept of collaboration is a  broken promise.

“We’re more interested in our KPIs then creating great work.”

He continued by saying there is a lack of investment in “good explorative work”.

“When I look at the P&G’s and the Unilevers of the world there is a drastic lack investment in good explorative work. That distance that we are creating between consumers and each other means we’re sacrificing our intuition, our feel for people and our feel for what matters and means we go back to functional and emotional benefits,” he said.

“The more isolated we are, the more we get sucked into our jobs we lose our common sense.”

Specifically for the Asian region, the problem is businesses looking for insights that can be applied across the whole region.

“If you work in the region every business is striving for economies of scale but we end up with economies of sameness,” Ho said.

“Now it makes sense, it’s good business thinking to try and find insights and communication ideas that are going to be pan-regional. There is ‘nothing wrong with that, that is good business. But that mentality sometimes takes us too far.

“What happens is you get insight and insight people and planners that are trained to look for commonalties to a point that they are starting to sacrifice local tensions or even the ability to recognise an insight that is dangerous and weird but that might be interesting in other countries.”

Ho also shared with the audience a thought that he believes should be applied to how agencies hunt for insights.

“It’s actually more important to be interesting than right, those people preoccupied with finding the right solution rarely find something that’s interesting. While those who set out to find something interesting find something right,” he said.

He offered the example of Whybin\TBWA Sydney’s NRMA Insurance campaign focusing on how the insurer covers extras other insurers don’t cover, which saw the agency build a car out of all those parts.

Dave Bowman, one of the creatives behind the campaign, and a friend of Ho’s talked him through the insights behind the campaign.

“He took me through this journey of where by when faced with research, the top six needs were very true and very popular, but what inspired his brief and his work was the so-called seventh most important insight,” Ho said.

“The first challenge that we have is to not mistake popularity of an insight or a need for relevance.”

Ho made the point that the current approach to research “is never going to get the creative juices flowing”.

“Insight, strategy and creativity is everybody’s responsibility, I don’t care what you’re role is, if you’re not interested in these things you’re not doing your job.

“There is a mindset shift we have to embrace so we work better together.

“What if we started to treat insight development the same way we treat creative development. An insight and an idea are essentially the same thing, it’s a provocative thought,” he said.

“A great insight is 50 per cent of a great idea – you know it, you feel it, the creative juices start flowing.”

Miranda Ward at Spikes Asia


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