Technology won’t make you more creative, but it can give you more space to be creative. It’s a part of the Marketing Technology stack that deserves some focus because Marketing leaders are clearly investing in creative teams and technology can drive greater efficiency.
CMOs have been building in-house creative teams for the last 10 years. For example, Forrester Research found that the number of in-house agencies has grown 22% in the last decade. More than half of [client side] advertisers (64%) have shifted their creative organizations to an in-house agency model. The goal is to improve efficiency by putting market, brand, and customer knowledge under one roof.
But just adding people isn’t enough. The investment requires process improvement and enabling technology. Consider these statistics from the annual 2019 In-House Creative Management Report, which surveyed more than 550 creatives and marketers about the creative process:
- Collaboration has room for improvement. About one-fifth (22%) of respondents said collaboration between marketing and creative was ineffective.
- Lengthening admin time begs for process improvement. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they spend about one day a week or more on administrative tasks. That’s up 14% from the same survey last year. As one respondent commented, there is “no process to cope with increasing demand for creative work.”
- Lack of standards derails creative projects from the outset. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) said “obtaining the necessary information just to get started on a project” soaks up the vast majority of this administrative time.
All of these statistics point to the opportunity to improve processes and collaboration between creative teams and marketing shops. Creative briefs and project kickoffs are the logical place to start – and one with sizable benefits.
3 Ways Technology Can Facilitate the Creative Brief
The purpose of a creative brief is for Marketing to provide the information designers need to produce the creative work marketers need to execute their campaigns. Creative briefs drive downstream actions.
In large Marketing organizations, these joint teams can produce hundreds, even thousands of multichannel campaigns. It’s a volume of work that requires a deliberate approach to workflow because, without it, the whole machine slows down.
By contrast, projects that get off to a good start have a better chance of being completed on deadline, and with the caliber of quality the business needs, to drive results. Fortunately, the process of the creative brief is one of the easiest to improve and automate.
1) Standardize Creative Requests and Briefs.
Standardization starts with documentation. Documenting the process for requesting creative work will surface the differences in breadth and depth required to begin different creative projects. The best practice is for Marketing and Creative to work together to build this process cooperatively.
Once the process is defined, workflow automation facilitates it and enforces standardization. Email, sidebar, and water cooler requests are no longer considered among the list of priorities. Flexible fields dynamically match the request, where for example, the requirements to produce a video are different than those for graphics. A dynamic form alleviates the burden of filling in fields designed for a larger project when requesting a smaller one, but also prevents the requestor from making an incomplete submission.
2) Brings Visibility and Accountability.
One of the frustrations marketers have is not having visibility into the status of a project request. Has a request been received or accepted?
Creatives also have their own frustrations: an email request with a few sentences doesn’t rise to the level of a proper creative brief. This leads to a lot of back and forth and re-work – admin time as the survey above articulated.
Creative briefs assisted by workflow solve this because the team agreed on the information requirements needed to go with requests, bring transparency to the process and helps to hold both sides accountable.
3) The Foundation for Creative Measurement.
“Creative directors need efficiency metrics to make the business case for staffing – whether internal or external – the following month, quarter or year,” according to Brent Chiu-Watson, Sr. Director of Product Management, Adobe Creative Cloud, in the aforementioned study. “This is increasingly important as in-house creative teams grow larger.”
In the process of standardizing and automating creative briefs, the same system lays the foundation for measuring creative operations: the volume of requests projects accepted, assigned, started, delivered, projects by a requestor, and other creative measures of productivity and efficiency. When Marketing inevitably wonders, “Why can’t I have this video done by tomorrow?”, the team can have a data-driven conversation about workload, resources, and priorities.
The Benefits of Effective Creative Briefs
The benefits of standardizing creative briefs cannot be understated. When we isolated the respondents to the In-House Creative Management Report to just the top 25% who reported having a strong creative brief and project kickoff process, the findings were significant.
Marketers and creatives that have effective creative briefs are:
- 26% more likely to say their Marketing leadership is effective;
- 20% more likely to say collaboration between Creative and Marketing is effective;
- 17% more likely to be on teams that use best practices;
Perhaps most important of all, they spend more time creating: just 34% in this group spend 8 hours or more per week on admin vs. 48% overall.