The incorporation of data intelligence into the creative process is the most consequential advancement in creative agencies since the creative revolution of 1950s and 1960s Madison Avenue. Mid-century agencies’ embrace of humanistic consumer empathy forever altered the course of marketing and advertising by overlaying a brand idea with a psychological understanding of consumers. It established the standards of advertising creative craft and propelled the success of an entire generation of agencies and leaders. The rise of data intelligence in creative development is poised to be just as transformative, impactful, and profitable today.

Intuitive Creativity Gives Way To Intelligent Creativity

From heritage creative agencies, creative boutiques, and creative consultancies to digital-first agencies, the common denominator is their shift from developing idea-first creative and content using qualitative insights to now creating audience-first content leveraging robust data sets comprised of psychological, behavioral, and transactional understanding of the target and individuals. Forrester calls this form of marketing development “intelligent creativity,” and it involves teams of creators and strategists conceiving, developing, producing, and activating marketing solutions with the use of automation and AI tools. The implication is a fundamental mindset shift in how creative and content are made, with whom, and with what technology, and the results are more well informed, platform-appropriate, and feature measurable solutions.

The Rise Of Creative Intelligence Agencies

Some agencies now use technology to facilitate their creative process, while some choose to develop proprietary software and platforms that conform to their unique creative approach and philosophy. Leo Burnett developed its HumanKind platform to scale its founder’s signature human approach to brands and advertising. MullenLowe U.S. created Speedbag to accelerate its understanding and activation of tribal consumer behavior around brands and categories. One of Accenture’s many tools is C.R.I.S.P., a creative intelligence and optimization tool. And Amsterdam-based DEPT developed its Ada audience activation platform for digital media and creative development. Combined with the skills and artistry of creative people, creative intelligence platforms play an increasingly important role in creative development.

The right mindset combined with the right technology gives agencies back their creative advantage. The best creative and content services providers:

  • Inspire the entire creative process with audience-first insight. The best creative and content agencies use creative and media intelligence to conceive, develop, produce, and activate marketing campaigns. Data intelligence reunites creative and media with audience-first perspective and technology as the binding agent.
  • Fuse the artistry of campaign development with machine prowess. Technology amplifies emotional connection. The best creative and content agencies blend art and science in multiple ways: using data-driven audience segment insights to inform messaging, design, image, and copy matrices; leveraging advertising technology partner automation to predict creative content performance; developing proprietary tools for creative inspiration drawn from cultural databases; or tapping exclusive data integrations inside retail media and commerce marketplaces.
  • Magnify the production of campaign content with data and automation. The best creative and content providers scale production with cloud studio technology, computer vision, automation, and a long list of ubiquitous partners that almost always include the likes of Adobe, Google, Amazon, Salesforce, Meta, TikTok, and more.

We lay out these trends and how the 13 top creative and content agencies have adopted them in the first Forrester Wave™ to evaluate creative development and creativity in services providers.

The Forrester Wave™: Marketing Creative And Content Services, Q3 2022 is one of several agency services evaluations that Forrester is publishing this year. To help enterprise CMOs understand the evolving, integrated marketing services landscape, we have also produced The Forrester Wave™: Global Digital Experience Services, Q2 2022, The Forrester Wave™: Consumer Data Strategy And Activation Services, Q2 2022, and The Forrester Wave™: Global Media Management Services, Q3 2022.

Click here to set up a guidance session or advisory with me for agency services. For questions about digital experience services, email; for data strategy and activation services, email; and for media or creative, email

Be on the lookout for our final evaluation: On August 11, 2022, we’ll publish The Forrester Wave™: Global Marketing Services, Q3 2022.