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Top 3 ways data impacts the creative process + 3 tips on how to help your creative career

Nathan Pieratt

Host Matthew Cummings speaks with award-winning designer and creative director Nathan Pieratt about the three ways data impacts the creative process: it informs, it adds complexity and it uncovers insights. Pieratt shares stories from his more than 15 years of industry experience to illustrate how data helps determine the right channels, audience segments and messaging. While adding complexity and time to the creative process, data can uncover behaviors that lead to more insights…making the extra time and effort well worth it.


Matthew Cummings: With today's focus on creativity, how does data impact that creative process?

Nathan Pieratt: Data is going to help guide where the creative is going, it sets a foundation for our plan of attack. It helps inform the creative brief, and as we all know, that's where the creative process really starts. Data is going to support the segments and the personas that we're trying to talk to. So it helps us really understand our audience at a high level, and also into the more granular level of personas. A persona would be like, "We know that you're the tech guy at this company, or we know that you're the marketing manager."

So data informs, as well the messaging, the tone, the CTAs. It also informs how we're going to test our creativity. Data is going to confirm that we're using the right channels, that we're talking to the audience in the right way.

Matthew Cummings: What do you think is the most valuable thing that data brings to that creative process?

Nathan Pieratt: I think the most valuable thing data brings to the creative process is insights. Data driven, personalized marketing is going to have a big payout because over time that data is going to uncover behavior, which will lead us to more insights. Creative without insight is dead.

Matthew Cummings: So what are some of the unique skills that creatives need to have in order to effectively and efficiently apply data to their process?

Nathan Pieratt: My experience with data is we're all working very hard to leverage it the best way we can, but we're not really sure what the right way to do it is, so you're building the plane in the air. Creative has to be comfortable shifting gears, and shifting gears is hard. So the unique skills would be, be nimble, be proactive, be patient, ask questions, help find solutions, and be okay with change. A great team member, you need to be a great team member as this plane is being built, and a lot of creatives have a hard time with that.

Matthew Cummings: What is the process that you use to find a good insight, or how do you learn how to do that?

Nathan Pieratt: I struggled a little bit with this answer. I think there's a combination of things. The first is, if you're new to this, find a mentor. Definitely find someone who does this and does it well. Read up on it, and then of course practice. If you've been doing it for a while, and if you're kind of struggling, I would say have as many side projects as possible. You start to lose your passion for that particular product, whatever that is. So have a side hustle, have something that keeps your creative passion, and it keeps you looking for ways in to win when it comes to the work you're doing.

Matthew Cummings: What are the top things that will help your creative career, whether we have the young professionals, emerging professionals listening in, or students?

Pieratt: The creative career part, I would start with networking. It's who you know and then where you are right now, be really good at it. Even if you're just pushing papers, be really good at it and be someone who is an asset to the team, because you never know when in the future that'll come back. The second one I think would be “remember to pass the mustard.” Remember, know who the players are. Know how to have solid communication skills, and work with your teams to make sure you're asking the right questions, and you've set yourself up for success.

This podcast originally aired September 12, 2018.

About Our Guest:

Nathan Pieratt

Nathan Pieratt is an award-winning designer and creative director. He has over 15 years of industry experience developing creative strategy for Fortune 500 brands, such as Frito-Lays, Walmart, and AT&T.

Currently, Pieratt is a head of marketing at the start-up SWIPEBY ( in Winston Salem, North Carolina. and responsible for the development and execution of creative strategy and full marketing mix. Before SWIPEBY Pieratt was group creative director at Epsilon where he and his team developed data-driven creative strategy for AT&T Business, with a focus on email, direct mail and display.

Pieratt also actively consults on creative execution and big ideas for brands like Arby’s, Snickers, Mountain Dew, Doritos and State Farm. He has been an adjunct instructor for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh for the past 12 years, teaching both design and art director courses.

Pieratt is a 2013 graduate of the IMC program and holds an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. He lives in Rockwall, Texas with his wife and four daughters. He enjoys a good book, cooking and is a huge college football fans. Go Mountaineers!

Interested in growing your career with a master's degree in Data, Digital or Integrated Marketing Communications?  Request more information today!

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