Rich data can tell you what your target audience wants, feels and does, illuminating how your customers interact with your products and services whilst providing guidelines for development.

A panel of experts discussed whether, if your narrative isn’t creative and compelling, customers will know you exist or remember you when making buying decisions.  “Today, the mobile phone is the window into the consumer’s life,” started Foursquare chief of customer insight and innovation Gayle Fuguitt.

Self-professed data nerd and J. Walter Thompson New York head of digital Jennifer Usdan McBride said that “sometimes data is the creative idea,” discussing how creatives approach data in different ways to think about future innovations.

Data insights can also be used to inform products, added Shutterstock creative director Terrence Morash, whose company has used data to spot market niches and develop products around them. “Data is insights with crappy branding,” Morash added, of the need to get better at translating data into insights.

Fuguitt added that, with so many creative opportunities available at scale, if a company is not failing, they are not trying hard enough or innovating enough to discover the undiscovered.

Usdan McBride commented that historical data that is already gathered is just an iterative solution and doesn’t put anything new into the mix: “We’re looking at campaigns that will be launched in the future and basing them on past information, it’s not new so it’s a bit boring.”

As opposed to spend, measure and pray, Fuguitt said there is an opportunity to experiment, learn and scale by starting small, failing fast and measuring in real time, which is something she has never witnessed before in her career.

It is important to have data and insights integrated into a team, and Usdan McBride felt that, now measurement tools are much more accessible, creatives don’t need a translator to walk them through the data. “They need to put a thought layer in there instead of just interpreting information,” she added.

Discussing Mad Men-era advertisers, she continued that two new disciplines have been introduced since the mid-century and, while creatives aren’t afraid of data and love to learn, they don’t want to look at spreadsheets.

The conversation moved towards how personalisation works when scaling up operations, and whether people are too obsessed with data. Pubmatic chief marketing officer Jeffrey Hirsch felt that great stories are critical: “When you know so much about so many people, why do you keep telling them the same thing?”

Usdan McBride added that if you start with great creative, you can reinforce it with data and reverse engineer it: “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

Looking to the future, she said that she was excited about the possibilities voice offers as a way of gathering information in a much more fluid direction through a variety of different appliances.

Fuguitt felt the near future would see a combination of new technology and back to basics creative through mixed reality and consumer generated content, while Morash was focussed on hyper personalised AR and VR experiences in real time.

Hirsch concluded that he believed the future would feature a lot of the same conversations but hopefully there will be better insights into data – and it will be utilised properly.