This month, I had the pleasure of attending MAD//Fest. My favourite yearly gathering of marketing enthusiasts, thought leaders, and industry disruptors. It was the same vibrant venue, and the air was still thick with creativity and innovation. But I couldn't help but notice a significant shift in the conversation. 

The age-old debate of Brand vs. Performance Marketing is finally evolving.

For so long it’s been a battlefield of Mad Men vs Math Men. But it’s now no longer “them and us”.

At last, it’s merged into a joint quest to find a sweet spot of creativity and performance. Heart and Mind stood on the main stage, together. 

Marketers from all industries are now passionately discussing the integration of branding and performance, along with strategies and tactics to embrace and measure the combination of both.

Brands at the top of the game are now comfortable in blending art and science.

The Rise of the Data-Driven Jedi

The adoration of data has grown exponentially over the last decade. This has been fuelled by the ever-expanding dominion of tech giants like Meta and Google, as well as other Silicon Valley unicorns. 

“Modern marketing” giants have used their algorithms and analytics with arrogance. Dizzying growth has been built on a sophisticated science of marketing, fuelled by the precision and predictability of data-driven media.

But we are now at a merging point. Many companies are realising that an over-focus on performance will only get you so far. Just look at AirBnB’s well documented switch of spend from performance to brand marketing.

The Math Men and Mad Men are both realising that sustainable growth comes not from one or the other, but from the seamless integration of the two.

The Fall of Traditional Branding: Nostalgia vs. Metrics

With the growing allure of predictability, traditional branding strategies have found themselves grappling to defend themselves. 

There’s an increasing need to justify branding and creativity in the face of lower-funnel ROI-driven metrics.

Luckily, studies like Paul Dyson’s Advertising Profitability Analysis can help. His 2023 research found that creativity is the single most important element of advertising under a marketer's direct control. Only “brand size” delivers more profitability.

Even more interesting is that creativity is nearly 5x more effective in driving profitability than just the media mix alone.

Clearly there a lot of other dynamics happening. There always is in the real world. But one thing is clear - the best brands know that creativity has an irreplaceable role in capturing hearts, minds, and wallets.

We need to be both creative and effective. 

We need to invest in ads that work, as well as optimise for performance.

Navigating the Chaos

Whether we're Math Men or Mad Men at heart, our ultimate objective is growing sales. We are all in the business of spending to drive incrementality.

It’s a daunting prospect. Measurement is hard. But, if MAD//Fest taught me one thing, it’s that the best and brightest are now as comfortable with a paintbrush as they are with a calculator. 

So, where do we start?

First step is cleaning your data. Make it well defined and systematic. Make sure you understand what you want to measure and the key contributing data points.

A robust data infrastructure might not be sexy, but it’s essential for accurate insights and to break down silos. You can then start to accurately use this data to measure.

Here’s how the best brands are measure brand vs performance.

1)    Adopt multi-touch attribution to map the customer journey and identify influential touchpoints.

2)    Use conversion lift studies to pinpoint the campaigns and creatives that are driving real results.

3)    Employ market mix modelling to analyse the impact of each marketing channel on sales. Using it for budget allocation across channels and portfolios.

Easy on paper. Difficult in practice.Research each of these. Get into the details and understand how they work. See how they best fit your business. 

Lenny Rachitsky recently wrote a great deep dive into these principles if you want to dig further.You’ll find that the combination of these is the best way to balance creativity and data-driven insights in today's dynamic landscape.

Final Words

The conversation has shifted, and there’s a collective ambition to get to a more holistic view on attribution. We are finally moving away from needing to battle creative and performance budgets.

It’s a welcome switch. The macro environment is chaotic, the media landscape is fractured, and getting attention is now more important than ever.

We need the Mad Men and Math Men to work side by side to drive growth.

Don’t get left behind!

Adam, a regular columnist for MAD//Insight, is Head of Digital for Beiersdorf Northern Europe, better known for their household brands of NIVEA and NIVEA Men. Adam’s career has spanned CRM, consumer experience, and digital media, and he now leads the award-winning digital marketing and growth team on Beiersdorf’s flagship skincare brands across seven countries. He also writes a monthly newsletter - Growth Talk ( – which deep dives the process of creating rapid experimentation cultures to supercharge growth.