Goafest 2019: Nothing beats creativity, says Gordon Bowen 

Bowen, Founder & Global Chairman, McGarry Bowen, talks about how data should be a friend so that it cannot supplement the human quotient

Gordon Brown

There has been a lot of conversation about data being the new oil for ad campaigns. Gordon Bowen, Founder & Global Chairman, McGarry Bowen in the second knowledge session at Goafest on Friday morning spoke about how creativity will outshine data. 

For Bowen, nothing beats creativity and he illustrated his point with examples of ad campaigns he has created. 

The title of Bowen’s speech was ‘Data’s Inferno’. He said, “We need to figure out if data is heaven or hell? Data has a massive role in this android-driven world. We, as agencies, need to figure out what data can and cannot do. When we created the United Airlines campaign, data could not bring music, story and fact together. Yet, it was the most recalled and remembered for the Olympics for United Airlines.” 

Bowen also said that the human ability to extract is highly useable, they seem to communicate through narrative imagery and connect with the individuals in the story of the ad film and that counts. He further said, “The ad we created for the brand Fiat in our own studio was for the Jeep business and we used the narrative imagery insight to gain consumer attention.” 

When Bowen and his team were trying to create an ad film for Hallmark they tried to get Donald Hall, the billionaire owner of Hallmark Cards, for fifteen years. In the ad film that particular greeting card that read that message, sold a lot of cards in one day. 

“For the brand Chevron, we made the tagline ‘Doer’s turn nothing into something and something into nothing’ relevant, for it is surprising is that Chevron has become the third largest company in the United States and the biggest company in California,” said Bowen. 

"Data also says that humans value their uniqueness" and it is extremely difficult to project that in an ad film. “What is really interesting is that we were told that the ad campaign we created inspired the film ‘Frozen’. A film that has a very positive impact about what it means to be a princess was driven from an ad film we created,” commented Bowen.

“We created an ad film for Miracle Whip and the ad increased their sales after a slump for 14 years, and has continued to move on,” said Bowen. He also gave an example of when they created the Honda ad, the message was more than the sum of its parts. 

Sometimes it’s about intuition, stated Bowen. For small agencies, that want to win Bowen advises, “Let me tell you about the power of a creative idea. We were pitching to a client and wanted the business badly for our San Francisco office and the Chairman of the company came to us and said that he had the most recognisable sound in the world, which is the Intel bound and the most recognisable line in the world that suits the brand. And the logo and circle that attracts consumers. But it associates with the PC’s we had in the past, should we keep them or not? This was a dilemma for the agency and the next day Marry Anne Beth went to their office and said, “I want to take the intel bond and put it together with Beethoven's fifth and create an ultimate mashup of five notes.” That was a genius idea for the ad film. Bowen’s agency was the third choice to be picked by the client and they plugged the ad film in and the Chairman liked it and they made the cut. That is the power of intuition.” 

People wonder if McGarry Bowen made the American Express Business card rise? “It was a miracle. It was a strategic idea that was accompanied by creating good content. American Express is driven by celebrities. They wanted the celebrity to be more than just a face. They wanted them to have values and stand for something that they stood for. They picked someone that will garner huge respect like Lin-Manuel. Manuel was offered seventeen Super Bowl Ads but he only agreed to do American Express,” remarked Bowen. 

On Accenture acquiring Droga5, Bowen said: “The exciting thing about data is that I can know about something and someone who lives in a particular region even though I live in New York. It gives me an insight which is wonderful. But we have clients who are rationale. Our job is not to disregard data but to put data in its place and to help our clients and our consumers realise that data can be our friend and enemy too. Data should be our friend so that it cannot supplement the human quotient.” 

In his closing thought, Bowen said: “In Dentsu, we had this thought that we lived by - ‘Creatively led, creatively driven and tech-enabled.’ Nothing can replace creativity. If you wish to get to paradise, we need to create as agencies. It is not about a data-driven world, it is about a creation driven world.”

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