John Hegarty has had his say, Jonathan Spooner, too, even Dave Trott has waded in. Now consultant creative director, Harper’s Wine columnist and marginal poet Mark Fiddes joins the debate about data versus creativity.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the AAA (Annual Advertising Acronym) Presidential Debate. To discuss this year’s highly charged issue of data and creativity we have two well-known thinkers, Leonardo da Vinci and Isaac Newton. While they have yet to win a Cannes Lions, you may recognise them from the back of bank notes.
Interviewer: Mr da Vinci, if I may turn to you first. Over 13,000 pages of notebooks you seem to be interested in both observation of the natural world and invention of new things. How do you sum up the conflict?
Leonardo: Total bollocks.
Interviewer: How so?
Leonardo: To invent the paraglider, I had to look at a bat’s wing in minute detail. The better my data on its construction, the more creative my solution.
Interviewer: How do you explain the failure of your rotary flying machine?
Leonardo: I had scant understanding of the Laws of Mechanics and Gravity. Otherwise, I would have built the helicopter and Italy would now be the world superpower.
Interviewer: Perhaps now would be a good time to bring in our other guest. Sir Isaac, what’s your view?
Isaac: Codswallop. All great scientists are creative. They have to be to make the lateral move that allows them to see patterns of observed data in a new way – so that they can provide better explanations and solutions to problems.
Interviewer: An example?
Isaac: Miroslav Holub. Nobel Prize winning immunologist and poet. But he’s Czech. The problem today is uniquely British. Your education system still channels students into arts or sciences. It’s the old “Two Nations” of CP Snow where each institution survives – indeed supports the other – based on mutual mistrust.
Leonardo: Yeah. Creatives are flaky and emotional…
Isaac: While data people are dull and rational…
Interviewer: Sounds like advertising.
Leonardo: If by that you mean “rhetoric” I could not disagree more. The art of getting people to agree with you has not changed since Aristotle. An idea is only persuasive insofar as it has ethos, pathos and logos.
Interviewer: How is that relevant?
Isaac: In terms of modern adverts…ethos is the good character of the brand which comes about through reputation over a number of years…logos is the rational argument that shows the brand has observable advantages to you…pathos is the emotional appeal the brand has to make your life intrinsically more worthwhile in some way.
Leonardo: To be good at rhetoric you need all three in fine balance.
Interviewer: So you need data (logos) and creativity (pathos) to make the right impression (ethos)?
Isaac: Ideally, you should not be able to tell them apart.
Interviewer: So Aristotle was the first adman.
Isaac: I don’t think he would see it like that.
Interviewer: A final question. What’s your favourite ad?
Leonardo: Sistine Chapel. Kept the Papacy in power for centuries.
Isaac: You’d have to go a long way to beat Apple.
Interviewer: Thank you…until the next forum when we debate whether a ban on cuddly animals would spell the end of British advertising, as we know it.
Mark Fiddes is Ideamotelier at IdeaMotel