Almost three quarters (72%) of marketers feel that a culture of measurement is “killing creativity”.

Undertaken by digital agency Dotted, the study approached 250 in-house marketing decision makers, looking to uncover the challenges around balancing data with more creative-led approaches to campaign planning.

The study also revealed how demands from the executive team complicate things further, with nearly two-thirds (64%) claiming that senior management won’t support pure brand-building activity, while half of this group said they were directed to focus only on measurable activity.

While the results can be viewed in a positive light for the growing adoption of performance marketing itself – which holds measurement and accountable spend as founding principles – the fact that creativity is seen as mutually exclusive to its subparts should be of concern to its practitioners.

“It’s alarming to see so many in-house marketers concerned with a lack of balance between measurement, data and creativity in their organisations,” said Rebecca Manville, managing director at Dotted.  

Despite concerns of a “data bias” in digital marketing today, however, the research showed that imaginative work is still very much part of the planning process. Nearly a third (32%) of respondents listed structured creative thinking as what drives early campaign preparation, ahead of previous campaign (26%), or conversion data analysis (25%).

Meanwhile, when asked about their first action on receiving a project brief, the study revealed a closer split, with 26% responding that they asked their teams to start planning creative, while 25% would tell their staff to look at demographics and data.

Commenting further, Manville said that the results of the study underline the importance of finding “a repeatable method for insight and creativity to meet – in a way which works for the whole team and allows instincts to be explored.”

Julia Munder, international marketing manager for luxury online brand, Maxwell Scott, said that the balance between creativity and data will “always be a challenge”, but has become a key discipline that marketers must account for today.

“Although it’s important to resist the urge to jump to conclusions too quickly, data helps redirect and focus creative energy in the most productive way. Quality insight, coupled with great ideas and governed by good instincts seems to work best for us,” said Munder.

“I’m using ever greater levels of detail to analyse our campaigns. We need to know what works and why. Our CEO is easier to convince when you can argue your ideas with conversion data. Of course, there are brand building activities, like online PR, that you can’t measure immediately. The effect of a good PR piece is often only visible long-term.”