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In the final season of AMC's Mad Men, during "The Monolith" episode, Harry Crane, the agency's media buyer, demands that the firm purchase him a computer. The computer of which he speaks could be considered one of the earliest examples of ad tech.

A 1969 Harvard Business Review article described the computer as being capable of performing data analysis that would "enable businesspeople to make informed decisions about whether to hold inventory; expand plant production; rent, buy, or borrow; increase production; and examine the effects of anomalies on demand or the effects of constraints."

As the computer is being assembled—in the process taking up an enormous amount of space within the agency's offices—we come to understand its thematic significance: it symbolizes the coming change in the role of creatives, the Don Drapers of the world. These creatives up until then made decisions based on gut feelings and instinct, not needing to create space for new tech-savvy math men and their machines. "The IBM 360 can count more stars in a day than we can in a lifetime," exclaims the technician installing the computer.

"But what man lay on his back counting stars and thought about a number?" Draper retorts.

Many creatives lack an understanding of analytics

I thought of this scene as I wandered through the booths at this year's Marketing Nation Summit, a marketing automation conference put on by Marketo. Though I was amazed by the technical and analytical prowess displayed by many attendees, there was a noticeable dearth of conference goers who worked on the creative side of marketing—the graphic designers, videographers, and writers who actually produce the content.

My observation highlights a pervasive problem within my industry: Many creative content producers lack even a basic understanding of the analytics side of their work, and, because of this, they are unable to make informed decisions about the kind of content that drives client and customer acquisition.

You may be the world's greatest designer with a masterful command of UX and UI, but if you don't understand all the downstream effects of how consumers touch your product, your skillset is too isolated.

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image of Matt Cooper

Matt Cooper is CEO of Visual.ly, a content creation platform that enables businesses to engage audiences through premium visual content created by vetted freelance creative professionals.

LinkedIn: Matt Cooper