When Craig Atkinson talks about the contributions of data and creativity to advertising that is most effective in engaging consumers, he thinks in terms of Taoism, while some people perceive a struggle between the two.

“I think the reality is they have to work in a yin and yang kind of approach,” Atkinson, Chief Investment Officer at PHD, a unit of Omnicom’s OMD, says in an interview with Beet.TV. “How do we merge these incredibly powerful forces to make something that works better?”

In addition to what he terms “that big struggle” between data and creativity lies the task of figuring out more precisely the right amount of messaging that brands need and in what formats, for example still versus motion versus audio. In addition, how best to reach people across the media landscape.

“I think frankly we have maybe too many opportunities to find impressions and not so many connected examples of content that’s going to resonate in those spaces,” Atkinson says.

He considers the growth of ad-blocking solutions as yet another example of consumers taking control of what they’re seeing and how they’re experiencing it. The ad industry’s challenge is to build an experience that’s good enough so that consumers don’t want to turn it off.

“I think we’re a long way from that right now, but we’ve always said that the right way to do marketing and advertising is in a way that the consumers don’t think of it as marketing and advertising,” Atkinson says. “Ad blocking is just their way of saying ‘I’ve had enough of it.’”

While noting the opportunities that lie in brands being able to connect with people in the digital space where they are passionately talking about or experiencing something that they love, it poses a double-edged sword if not done well.

“It’s one of those Pandora’s boxes for us where we could go in as a brand and try to have a message and, if successful, we have exponentially greater response and return,” Atkinson notes. “However, the risk probably also goes up for it being not quite a fit and having consumers sort of scratching their heads…why is this brand trying to be part of my life?”

We interviewed him as part of our preview series “The Road to Cannes” presented by FreeWheel.   Please visit this page for additional segments. 

"The Road to Cannes," presented by FreeWheel