Data-Driven Creativity

Data as the Foundation for Communication
Gonzalo Arrabal
Digital Traffic Manager @ RACC
March 21, 2021
8 Min read or listen
Digital traffic specialist, Gonzalo Arrabal, has always been empathetic and committed to the projects in which he has been involved. According to Gonzalo, these two characteristics are reflected in the most important aspect of any project: the Content. This is because storytelling, or narration, is the way to explain in the best possible way the value proposition of a person or a project.
However, at a time when the "informational noise" is deafening and it is difficult to get people's attention, Gonzalo takes the insights (that we obtain thanks to data) as the only way to make any creativity effective in its narration and therefore in its communicative objective.
We talked to him about the relationship between creativity and data.

Where does your interest in Content come from?

With Content we communicate and communication is what interests me the most. We are social animals and it takes us away from isolation. It defines us. What I really love is hearing stories. I like listening to someone who has something to say, reading a book, watching a movie or a TV show, seeing a commercial, entering a website, attending a conference... Everything has storytelling; everything happens because we want to communicate something.

Gonzalo Arrabal. BCN.

How has that influenced your work?

Although there are many types of language, verbal language is the one that attracted me from the beginning, since I was a child. I studied pure Classics and then Journalism.

Words are the language we use the most, right?

That's correct! But non-verbal communication is also important. Words are essential to make us understand, to communicate, to express what we want. I have always been obsessed with communicative clarity, hence the need to master my language. It is difficult enough to understand each other so that we also fall into the inconsistencies that hinder communication.

Is communication also your obsession at work?

Yes, at the beginning of my career I focused on Internet Content. We are talking about my life in the 2000s and about Web 1.0 (before blogs existed and social networks raised). We are talking about an Internet dominated by the first websites of enterprises. They were static, without updating content. And they often suffered from the abuse of sectoral jargon or overly formal language.

Gonzalo Arrabal, BCN.

And how do you work in Content now?

Convincing companies that what they were communicating on their website did not match what they really were. If they were important in their industry, if they were relevant to their customers... That is what they had to show.

Back then, at the agency I was in, we managed to get practically all the companies we worked for to start publishing news, studies, participation in events, press releases, etc. We made them actually communicate their activity in the real world on the Internet.

But posting on a website doesn't mean getting traffic. How do you bring visits to a website?

Discovering web analytics and also SEO (the optimization that allows content to be positioned in search engines) was a revealing moment for me. Certainly, having a website allows you to communicate with a much larger audience, if we compare it with having a store or even the largest network of physical establishments that you can imagine. But how do you reach people who may be interested in you?

SEO allows you to bring your content closer to people who are looking for it. It is the perfect communication bridge. And with web analytics you can measure the impact of that communication. I enjoyed many years of researching keywords, creating and modifying web structures and adapting content to better respond to users' search intentions.

SEO and web analytics were an inflexion in the way I approached work, and they even changed my way of conceptualizing communication and creativity in general. The best creativity in the world is useless if it does not reach its intended target. That is why I ended up specializing in digital traffic, expanding my interest in SEO to other traffic sources. Thus, traffic sources are communication bridges.

Gonzalo Arrabal. BCN.
The best creativity in the world is useless if it does not reach its intended target.

Speaking of other traffic sources: Is the objective of total communication achieved with social networks and mobile phones? Are Facebook, Instagram or Whatsapp what we needed to get it?

No. They are just tools. They have their useful functionalities, but also their limitations. I'm not going to go into Internet issues or mobile addiction (I do not have the knowledge for it), but I do know that having tools does not mean knowing how to use them.

In addition, the ease of information sharing (undoubtedly an advantage for greater consolidation of democratic practices in our societies) does not guarantee that communication flows in the most appropriate way (for the senders) or that it reaches the intended audience.

Of course, I believe in the attention economy. My work is ultimately based on that; on getting as much traffic as possible from people who may have an interest in certain topics from organizations that communicate information, products and services on those same topics.

How important is creativity in your work? How does it join the concept of Data-Driven?

Without creativity there is no effective communication, especially in the current context (so saturated with information). With creativity, messages stand out and reach more people. But that should never be separated from data analysis. Data analysis should be part of the creative process. Otherwise we fall for the deceptions of common sense.

Does common sense often mislead us?

Yes, many times. Common sense can lead us to believe that it is better to use (in a certain space) an image than a text, or a video, or a typeface, or any other element that seeks to communicate or persuade.

However, common sense is always conditioned by our own experience as users. And as unique users we are not representative of anything. What works for us may not work for others.

Along with SEO and web analytics, another discipline that changed my work approach was conversion optimization, especially the potential of A / B testing. With these tests you manage to banish the common sense of creativity so that the data becomes the most important thing.

Data analysis should be part of the creative process. Otherwise we fall for the deceptions of common sense. Is communication also your obsession at work?

Is Data-Driven Creativity widespread in organizations?

No. In my experience, not enough. It is true that web analytics and conversion optimization are extended disciplines, but they do not transmit enough to other processes (including the creative process) inside the organizations.

In my opinion, not only do most advanced organizations use data as a source of their creative process, but they use it within their production process. But that is another story.

If data influences the creative process, there will be a significant quality improvement and a greater focus on the client.

Have you seen that quality improvement on many occasions?

Fortunately, yes. And it gives you a lot of satisfaction. I have been able to see how a landing page creation process went from having high bounce rates to having satisfactory navigation rates; how text modifications increased conversion rates; how changing an image in a commercial or on a website exponentially increased the sales of a certain product; how a copy change in an advertisement dramatically increased CTR...

Furthermore, when the data-driven approach is established in companies, it is not only the positive result that offers you greater satisfaction, but also checking how the teams structure their next proposals around this data to carry out the next development of user experiences.

And what can we expect from Data-Driven Creativity in the future?

The truth is that I have no idea. But I hope we get a consolidation. Creative directors should see data-driven creativity as an invaluable help for their work. They should never see it as a limitation.

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