As I sat bleary eyed in the audience at the Ad:Tech Sydney breakfast briefing this morning, three words sailed over the heads of the audience and slapped me awake – “creative is back”.

He said it again for added impact – creative is back.

The speaker, Responsys’ Simon O’Day, was part of a panel focusing on email marketing – but his interest was broader. He was talking lifecycle marketing, multi-channel and data.

I caught up with him after the panel for a quick conversation and to get a greater sense of what he was hinting at. Here are some of the themes we discussed:

Creative is back: there is a clear opportunity but also a challenge in the years ahead – after all, we are now all receiving vast amounts of email every day. The opportunity and challenge is to invest in creative and bring it into the heart of our campaigns and use that to cut through.

Data drives insights: there is a vast amount of data now at our fingertips – but rather than delivering insights, most marketers are drowning. Increasingly we need to look to technology to help us sift through the information that is available to us. My view was that we needed some creative partnering to take place – between the marketing teams, agencies and companies like Responsys. To make this data work for us all, we need the deep expertise and the maturity to collaborate. Of course, that’s easier said than done!

Data is everywhere: We have our mailing lists and our databases – and that is all goodness. But social networks are now delivering additional data points that can deliver fantastic insights – as long as you know where to look. We should be looking for these opportunities beyond our own organisations – and tapping into the networks of value that already exist.

Imagine a world of 100% plus open rates: This is where it got interesting. As we spoke, Simon became more and more animated. He explained that hidden deep within the data – what Responsys call “profile extensions” – is information that allows you to engage people in a highly relevant way. The way I understood this was that a new piece of data – like a status update or a change in profile information (whether in your system or on Facebook or Twitter etc) could trigger an engagement – like an SMS alert, an email or an @ message. And because it was highly targeted and relevant, it generates 100%+ open rates.

So what we are seeing, really, are micro-segmentation capabilities that are based on people’s behaviours rather than demographic or other forms of segmentation. It’s pretty exciting – slightly spooky – but also the way of the future.

So what do you think? Is this deep level of targeting, when coupled with a focus on permission a way for us to deal with email overload? Is this a new way of understanding trust or is it going in the opposite direction? You tell me.