Less Measurement, More Creativity


A few years back I was ensconced in a drab, ill-lit conference room meeting with my client’s brand-new vice president of marketing.

He wore his cocksure attitude like a bow-tie and made sure I knew he was a graduate of an Ivy League business school.  Looking me dead in the eye, with a completely straight face, he proclaimed:

“You’ll find I have a unique approach that you won’t find with other marketing leaders.  I put value in two things: data and measurement.”

It took the will of 10 men not to roll my eyes.

Because quite frankly there are very few vice presidents of marketing who didn’t enjoy wallowing in data and measurement like a pig in a mud pit.

You know what would have been refreshing?  If he had said:

“You’ll find I have a unique approach that you won’t find with other marketing leaders.  I put my value in two things: creativity and results.”

You know what you get when you place a premium on creativity?

  • Pulitzer Prizes
  • MacBeth
  • Oscars
  • iPhones
  • Nobel Prizes
  • Moon landings
  • Leaves of Grass
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • 12 Angry Men
  • Twitter
  • Grammys
  • Led Zeppelin

You get the picture (and feel free to add to the list).

Creativity unlocks greatness.  The results are putting the creativity into to action (writing the book, building the rocket ship, engineering the device, filming the movie…).

No one ever achieved greatness measuring things, unless, of course, you are William Seward Burroughs.

Data and measurement have their place, but they should be lower on the totem pole.  They should not be front and center.  Creativity and results need to be in the pole positions.  They are much better – and get you more.

And guess what?  Creativity is a lot more fun than analyzing flow charts.


William Seward Burroughs

18th Century Internet

14 Responses to “Less Measurement, More Creativity”

  1. No one ever achieved greatness measuring things? I give you Oliver R. Smoot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_R._Smoot

  2. Clearly, OD, you missed this part: “No one ever achieved greatness measuring things, unless, of course, you are William Seward Burroughs.”

    Burroughs invented the calculator.

    The passage is written to exclude inventors and innovators in measurement – like Mr. Smoot. These innovators used creativity to invent and discover news ways of doing things. They did not reach those achievements by tallying spreadsheets and dissecting bar charts.

  3. Totally agree, George. The quants really take the fun out of everything. With all workers and all work being robotized, why don’t we make all the consumers robots too, and be done with it.

  4. Hey Tim! Good to hear from you. Another comparison would be how the stats geeks have taken some of the fun out of baseball, football and other sports. If we only listened to stat guys then players like Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead would never have been able to play the game.

  5. I think I know that guy in your conference room.

    I was lucky enough to work for a VP Marketing at Anheuser-Busch who valued creativity and getting a deal done above all else. He was responsible for the Budweiser lizards and some of the greatest A-B advertising. Those were my favorite work years, exciting and productive. The constant travel and growing family wasn’t compatible so I finally gave it up, but man, what fun we had!

  6. Hi Megan:
    Please tell me you got paid in beer.

  7. Megan Trainor Nocivelli February 7, 2013 at 6:52 am

    Funny you should mention that…when HR was going over benefits with me they said, “and two free cases every month”. I almost laughed out loud thinking, there was a time when that’s all you’d have to pay me! Since I don’t drink I used my “beer chits” to bribe the guys in the office to do things like start my car in the winter, bring me lunch, etc. But, only after making sure I had a nice stash in the garage, we were very popular at cookouts!

  8. In some quarters beer is clearly still more valuable than cash. Great story!

  9. I think you could argue we just need to make measurment more creative.

  10. Hi Malinda:
    Still sounds like too much math… :-)

  11. I feel like you baited me into that one! Interesting concept.

  12. George,

    I definitely agree that measurement isn’t the be-all-end-all of marketing. It’s creativity that makes campaigns gain momentum and ultimately gets people to buy whatever it is that you’re selling. Measurement has its place, but that place definitely isn’t front and center.

    I’m fine with data in regards to measuring results of campaigns etc., but come on, there are definitely more interesting ways to talk about and display them than a bunch of numbers on a page.


    PS. I share your issues with math.

  13. Hi Lilian:
    Just for the record: I love math. I just wish I was better at it.

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