Half of science is asking the right questions. So said Roger Bacon apparently. If you prefer your bacon a little less medieval, Francis Bacon once said “a prudent question is one-half of wisdom”.

In an age where data is everywhere, the challenge is to use it wisely to inform the creative process both before the launch of a new campaign and to continue to use customer data to refine the message so as to optimise its effectiveness. So which data should we use and which should we perhaps put to one side? Here’s another way of looking at the task. With many drug brands in increasingly congested marketplaces, the challenge is not to communicate the features/benefits of the drug, the why or wherefore but rather just to get attention and cut through the noise. Look at pretty much any therapy area and you’ll see that there is often a commonality across the various brands competing in that space. They are all asking the same questions and coming up with similar answers, ergo the creative solutions often look rather derivative. In short, all the advertising is “right” – brand message communicated, tick, unmet need represented, tick, patient-centric approach illustrated, tick – it’s just that no-one is actually giving a damn when they see the ad. As David Trott said in in 2017, 4% of ads are remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% of ads are not remembered at all.

OK, so maybe we need to think about what is going to actually resonate rather than just creating ads that are “right”, ads that make MLR happy, ads that get everyone in the concept testing group nodding along in accordance. Ads that get no-one fired. Maybe the data we need to focus on both pre and post launch is what is actually going to make people sit up and listen.

A client asked me this summer which ad (from a group of 8 theme and variations) I thought was the best. The client’s favourite ad was different to mine and we both had strong reasons for feeling that ours were stronger creative routes. I said it really didn’t matter, though, what either of us felt. The data would show which one was the best performing ad. Neither of our preferred ads hit the number 1 spot and the media inventory was altered in favour of the better performing ad.

Data-driven creativity should still be focused predominantly on the creative. Data is there purely to sharpen the communications and to remove some of the “finger in the air” guesswork often associated with the creative world. Just be sure to make sure you ask the right questions and measure the right things.

Dominic Marchant is a PM Society committee member and Founder and Chief Creative Officer at ARK agency.