Such as many in marketing, creatives have been doing more with less for a long time. Last year, however , brought things to new extremes.
Despite resources cut by about one-third, in both staffing (31%) and budget cuts (31%) more than half (58%) of innovative and design teams say they were met with bigger workloads.
Those are one of the findings from the 2021 Creative Administration Report , which usually polled over 400 creatives and marketers. The fourth yearly report is a collaborative hard work fielded by inMotionNow and InSource , an industry association for creatives.
The study shows creative groups rose to the occasion. These people brought their problem-solving skills and adaptability together in the time when marketing and the business needed it the most.
For example , more than half (57%) of creatives say they became more productive. Further, two-thirds stated they were asked to learn brand new technical skills such as electronic interactivity, video, live loading, and podcasting .
These skills proved essential to marketing as work went remote, events proceeded to go virtual, and most of the budget went to digital. In other words, marketing became increasingly reliant upon creatives during the pandemic and those teams saw their standing in marketing grow.
As Matthew Rayback , creative director at Adobe wrote in the report, creativeness and design is “not just art or content execution, but creative thinking and creative problem-solving. ”
Beware of creative burnout
One of the more worrisome designs woven throughout the findings and sentiment of the survey had been burnout. The research shows creatives aren’t just being requested more work with fewer assets – but facing such requests under the added pressure of even tighter deadlines.
The survey found the top challenges facing creatives are usually:
- The speed at which they may be expected to work (73%)
- Having enough sources (61%), and
- The volume of creative content demand (59%).
Creatives can only do more along with less for so long, then something has to change. Innovative leaders like Jim Nicholas , on the Florida Power & Lighting Company, recommends focusing on process and technology.
“For my team, it’s about efficiency and putting reduced on the creative team’s time, ” he says in the report. “I want our creative resources focused on high-value work. ”
The key would be to focus on the activities that drive results for the business, such as finding ways to automate low-value tasks.
Alignment is the secret to higher content
Driving the best possible content material outcomes requires alignment between your creative and marketing groups. Alignment means both groups have agreed on processes, priorities, and standards. Below are 9 actionable tips that leaders in both camps can carry out to that end.
1 . Create a common vocabulary
Creatives plus marketers tend to use various vocabulary. Marketers speak to data while creatives speak to style. It’s important to create a common vocabulary around customers, goals, deliverables, campaigns, and outcomes.
2 . Define creative projects by tiers
All innovative projects are not equal. An organized omnichannel advertising campaign that unfolds over months requires a lot more creative assets than a one-off graphic request. On the other hand, too many one-off graphic requests eat up time that should be spent on that will strategic campaign. Both advertising creative teams must establish projects by tiers therefore both teams understand the needs and prioritize accordingly.
a few. Standardize creative requests plus briefs
Too many creative projects start with an email request lacking the detail a designer needs to get started. Consequently, this evolves into a time-consuming back-and-forth email exchange to elicit the information needed. It’s an essential mistake because it derails the creative process in the beginning. Standardizing requests – preferably on a dedicated system other than email – goes a long way toward saving time and frustration for everyone involved.
4. Meet to kickoff projects
Some projects are easy – and once requests are standardized – only require a simple form. Others are more complicated and require a meeting. Nobody wants an extra meeting, but strategic marketing initiatives are worth it. The 2021 Creative Management Report found that those types of teams with well-defined processes, 84% meet with the project stakeholders as part of the kickoff.
5. Benchmark what constitutes a “rush” project
Everyone wants their creative projects faster. However , if everything is a priority then nothing is a priority, so creative and marketing need to agree on what constitutes a “rush” job.
Data the team collects from tracking creative projects is useful for identifying benchmarks. For example , Franklin Energy, which produces an astonishing 1, 600 creative projects annually, has determined that an average of the typical creative project takes 30 days. Therefore , any project requested with a deadline of fewer than 30 days is categorized as a rush project.
6. Eliminate scope creep
One part of putting some structure behind project requests is to put parameters around changes. Often what starts as a minor change to an initial request can snowball into several changes. Suddenly, a minor change that will have taken a few minutes is like a whole new project. In turn, that siphons resources from the agreed priorities and interferes with deadlines.
7. Provide visibility into status and progress
When marketing doesn’t have visibility into creative work, one of two things happens:
- Creative becomes a black box where marketing does not have any idea where things stand, or
- Creative becomes a button of sorts, where marketing puts a request in and creative magically comes out the other side.
Both of these perceptions lead to unmanaged expectations.
Once a project is started, creative teams need to provide visibility into its progress and status. There are many ways this can be conveyed. For example , some creative teams present a project slide in a periodic meeting or work with a project management tool that provides stakeholders with self-serve visibility into the status of their requests.
8. Develop a process for reviews and approvals
Sometimes the review and approval of a creative project can go sideways. There are many known reasons for this including:
- Duplicative, conflicting, or unclear feedback
- Sidebar conversations that leave out key team members
- Out-of-sequence reviews
A clear process for review and approval is likely to make this step smoother. A good review process has three characteristics:
- It’s possible for reviewers to give feedback
- Routing – who needs to review and when – is defined
- Reviewers have deadlines
Sometimes a limit to the number of review rounds pays to as well. However , if a project goes through more than three rounds of review without being approved, chances are the problem isn’t the review process, but the creative brief and project kickoff process.
9. Create an executive dashboard
Creatives often struggle to demonstrate value in a language marketing and business understand. When building out processes for managing creative projects, be sure to put in a step for capturing metrics around those projects.
What metrics should you track? Here again, Franklin Energy is definitely an illustrative example.
Cherise Oleson , a senior creative director with Franklin Energy, asked her executive team what metrics they thought were useful. Based on their feedback, she developed a quarterly dashboard with six key metrics:
- Total projects currently in progress
- Total projects completed YTD
- Top 10 highest rounds of review YTD
- Average hands-on design time
- Projects per team member, and
- Average time to complete projects.
If you want to find out more about the dashboard they use and why, Cherise presented a quick 30-minute session at Adobe MAX – which was recorded and is freely available – that puts it all into context.
A feedback loop for creative performance
The exact same study last year found about 50 % (55%) of creatives rarely or never see performance data stemming from campaigns. This means the metrics marketing uses to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns never makes their way back to the creative team. While that’s not a tip for improving efficiency, per se, it’s a significant way to drive efficacy and alignment between creativity and marketing.
Guest author: Elise Hauser is a senior marketing manager at inMotionNow, a respected provider of marketing resource management solutions for marketing and creative teams. She has led the creative management research process and publication of the report the past three years.
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