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Creativity and data collide: Advertising becomes a dialogue discipline

Carena Bongertz

Transformation Director

Scholz & Friends



The prevalence of consumer data and the ability to address individuals with tailor-made messages means it is more important than ever that we draw on creativity and human understanding. Digital expertise is required, of course, but so is a fresh look at how we think about customer relationship management (CRM).

Traditional CRM has been effective - if at times somewhat uninspiring - in its use of consumer data. Yet the same approach is often carried over into the digital world. Now, we have the possibility of dialogue, which goes beyond advertising that seeks to get a message across to someone with a short and shrinking attention span. In a dialogue, a range of different possible responses to a customer can be developed, and these used to focus consumers’ attention in a discussion that truly interests the customer. With brands, products, companies and all individuals offering information directly, the brands find it easy to engage people in conversations. Which means that anyone can do it: one click and the user is in dialogue with whoever.


But the ease with which brands can engage people in conversation means that anyone can do it: one click and the user is in dialogue with whoever. With brands, products, companies and individuals, all offering information directly.


This puts the customer in a powerful position, at the same level as any brand. They expect transparency and, where it is lacking, there is consumer mistrust. And if this lack of transparency is linked to a lack of security around consumer data, then that mistrust is intense. In digital CRM, therefore, brands must not overwhelm individuals with targeted messages but rather engage them in a way that leaves the customer – not the brand - seeking a deeper conversation. The individual then becomes what we in CRM call a „hot lead“, and both sides are happy.


To do this, brands must be able to sort through the overwhelming array of available data, separate the wheat from the chaff, and at the same time protect the privacy of their customers. Unfortunately, this is a rare combination. That leaves many brands in risky territory, particularly in Germany, where data protection regulations to protect consumers are being strengthened. The new Data Protection Principles (DSGVO), passed at the end of July, demand transparent handling of user data. The good news is this: It creates a strong opportunity for brands and consumers to engage in interesting dialogue on an equal footing, for the ultimate benefit of both sides.


This all requires the cooperation of a range of experts. Data analysts are in demand, along with media experts who know what’s possible, and creative minds who can turn dry data into inspiring ideas. Then there’s people or agencies with tracking and evaluation expertise. They must all unite in the interests of an engaged and satisfied customer, who is always addressed at the right time, through the right channel, with the right idea.


Today, only a few brands are bringing all of that expertise together. For the user, this means their experience of a brand and a product is rarely as seamless as they might hope or expect. Take an example from the automotive industry. The onboard computer is actually an ideal interface for carmakers to contact customers, and vice versa. The car itself (or the software) can be the medium of communication, but it usually is not. Imagine a day when people do not own a car, but want to feel immediately at home in a shared or self-driving vehicle; software could help make that happen. Perhaps a carmaker will soon enable me to finish a presentation or join a video conference on my journey from Hamburg to Frankfurt.



There is another important question to consider, and perhaps the most important one at a time when products – to consumers at least – are becoming more and more similar: How can we really engage not just customers but ourselves. We need to cultivate dialogues with other experts in related fields to inspire each other. Holistic thinking that is as seamless as customers’ expectations requires insight and creativity. Talking together means having one eye on the fine detail, and the other on the bigger picture.