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Both industry reports, and professional discussion groups dedicated to the state of in-house agencies reveal that in-house creative teams are struggling with positioning themselves internally as a go-to-partner for more strategic creative initiatives and avoid being seen as just a creative services provider. Disablers of strategic internal repositioning lie not only in organisational culture and management of client perceptions, but also in (mis)management of current creative workloads. Namely, current creative workloads, creative operations structure and creative resourcing strategies employed by in-house creative teams actually work against, not in favour of their strategic creative conceptual partner ambitions.
Current creative workloads, creative operations and creative resourcing strategies employed by in-house creative teams actually work against not in favour of their strategic creative partner ambitions.
2021 In-House Creative Industry Report published by Cella Consulting provides a great insight into a state of in-house creative agencies, revealing the underlying disablers of strategic internal repositioning ambitions.
Moving Beyond the Obvious? IHA Leaders Report Not Having Time For Actual Creative Work
One of main findings of 2021 In-House Creative Industry Report published by Cella Consulting, which also consistently appeared in 2018, 2019 reports, is lack of time for actual creative - conceptual work.
It takes no genius to acknowledge that this inability of in-house creatives to devote themselves to actually be creative, leveraging closeness to the operational business and intimate knowledge and devotion to the brand, completely hollows out the sole purpose of creating the in-house brand creative team in the first place.
65% of In-house teams lack time for creativity. Cella, Inc., 2021 In-House Creative Industry Report, April 2021
It takes no genius to acknowledge that this inability of in-house creatives to devote themselves to actually be creative, leveraging closeness to the operational business and intimate knowledge and devotion to the brand, completely hollows out the sole purpose of creating the in-house brand creative team in the first place. Being too time starved to work on strategic, creative and conceptual type of work, sabotages any prospects of being considered as strategic creative partner. Creating highly conceptual type of work takes both time and focus, and pitching against or together with external creative agencies to win internal business consumes project management time as well. So, the "chicken or an egg" question is, if creatives don't have time to work on highly conceptual creative work, how could they ever be considered a strategic creative partner to the business? If they are buried in tactical, operational, administrative tasks most of their time, how can they ever hone
Being too time starved to work on strategic, creative and conceptual type of work, sabotages any prospects of being considered as strategic creative partner
Even though the report doesn't press deeper - question why exactly are creatives unable to devote themselves to creative conceptual work, other reported findings point to some (more than) obvious reasons.
1) Creative workload - rising demand for digital (implementation) brand design
Accelerated to unprecedented levels due to covid-19, the the share of digital creative work has rapidly increased and will keep rising. Supplying digital touch-points with brand creative content and supporting digital marketing initiatives (programatic media buy, re-targeting, social etc.) means that predominant share of creative work will remain technical, tactical and volume driven.
Underlying characteristics of digital media environment (heterogenous formats, technical implementations, feeding the feed dynamic) make digital marketing creative branding more of a scaling, rather than a strategic concept game.
Sure, more digital doesn't necessarily mean less creative concepts, but underlying characteristics of digital media environment (heterogenous formats, technical implementations, feeding the feed dynamic) make digital marketing creative branding more of a scaling, rather than a strategic concept game.
2) Creative operations - improper digital tooling & disintegrated tool landscape
While in-house agencies report having assigned personal for management of their DAM libraries and project management software, they're lacking digital tooling strategy that move digital tooling decisions away from ad-hoc individual user needs towards integrative creative technology solutions that would enable holistic operational excellence from briefing, delivery and reporting - encompassing both creative effectiveness and creative operational efficiency.
In-house creative teams work with average of 20+ digital tools, with both overlapping, competing functionalities and at the same time underused features.
Undocumented workflows still largely present. Cella, Inc., 2021 In-House Creative Industry Report, April 2021
In-house creative teams work with average of 15+ digital tools, with both overlapping, competing functionalities and at the same time underused features. For example, its common that in-house teams will have multiple tools in parallel usage which have similar or same purpose - eg. Google docs and Smart-sheets. Proof HQ (Workfront) and Frame.io, Slack and MS Teams, Miro and Lucidcharts. Incoherent digital tooling environment not only unnecessarily inflates costs as subscriptions quickly add up to significant overhead, they also make work disconnected, repetitive and time consuming, while operational performance data is often locked up within individual solutions. For example, most in-house creative teams don't get data on external creative assets they create.
Incoherent digital tooling environment not only unnecessarily inflates costs as subscriptions quickly add up to significant overhead, they also make work disconnected, repetitive and time consuming.
3) Creative resourcing - prioritising freelancers over agencies and offshore production providers
In-house agencies predominantly use freelancers, many of which are actually permanent hires- 'perm-lancers', as their preferred supporting creative resourcing method. While it does offer flexibility and cost optimisation in comparison to traditional agency retainer models, using freelancers also adds administrative and management burden. Most freelancers are self-employed, invoicing their work, so administrative contract and vendor management cost, individual pricing, purchase order raising, billing & payment terms all amount to hidden costs that quickly grow as the pool of freelancers expand.
88% of In-house leaders leverage freelancers. Cella, Inc., 2021 In-House Creative Industry Report, April 2021
Moreover, as advanced economies, such as US, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Australia etc. push for more stringent supervision of 'self-employed' freelancers, with purpose of eradicating tax and employment benefit evasion via 'disguised self-employment', administrative burden could be compounded by looming legal and tax risk of back payment in tax and employment benefits. Criteria used by tax authorities in U.K. and Netherlands for example, might as well, classify many of the existing freelancers used by in-house agencies into employees for tax purposes - potentially opening floodgates of legal claims as well.
Pruning the Internal Organisational Set-up To Free Time For Strategic Creative Work and Projects
Without creating more time to work on creative conceptual type of work, in-house creative teams' ambitions to position themselves as creative strategic partners to the business will remain just that - an ambition. Being positioned as an an in-house creative strategic partner starts with having more time to do creative work - it's simple as that.
In-house creative teams wanting to reposition themselves as strategic creative partners will need to prune their organisational set ups, creative operational workflows and creative resourcing decisions, cutting out branches that don't add value to their ambitions.
However, emerging from the burden of operational workloads to have both physical time and mental space required for creative concepts creation, will need improvement of internal operational set-up. In-house creative teams with ambition to become strategic creative partner will have to re-structure operational, creative workloads and workflows so that current stream of business doesn't suffer, while at the same time increasingly creates time for in-house creatives to devote themselves to strategic conceptual type of proposals and solutions to the business.
This means offloading unnecessary and strategic repositioning non-mission critical time wasters that have crept-up within their areas of responsibility. One can't become a creative strategist, while being creative operational specialist, ultimate freelance vendor relationship manager, digital tooling guru and so on. In-house creative teams wanting to reposition themselves as strategic creative partners will need to prune their organisational set ups, creative operational workflows and creative resourcing decisions, cutting out branches that don't add value to their ambitions.
This means offloading unnecessary and strategic repositioning non-mission critical time wasters that have crept-up within their areas of responsibility.
How can we help? Making creative operations, resourcing and digital brand implementation workload management SO SIMPLE, SO EASY, SO FAST.
SO DIGITAL focuses on rationalisation of global brand, creative and e-commerce operations, removing time, money and process data drainers within organisational, operational and resourcing set-ups of central brand and in-house creative teams. Our own operational excellence platform solutions for global brand and creative implementation are complemented with client tailored solutions & services aimed at creating rapid rationalisation of processes and resources, delivering simplicity, speed and agility in execution - making them SO SIMPLE, SO EASY, SO FAST.
FREEING TIME FOR CREATIVE STRATEGIC WORK THROUGH SCALABLE, AGILE AND COST-EFFECTIVE DIGITAL BRAND IMPLEMENTATION SUPPORT
Meet rising digital brand & creative implementation workload through scalable digital brand implementation support service leveraged by clients like digital brand wholesale.com team of Nike EMEA and in-house brand creative agency of Uber EMEA are just some we've successfully supported with massive volume of both bespoke and standardised digital brand creative assets.
Nike EMEA stakeholder was wholesale. com brand digital team and our role involved digital enablement of tiered brand marketing & campaign content support strategy towards a complex network of e-retail partners across 14 WE countries and implementation rationalisation of seasonal brand (launch) activations for 10 categories.
Uber EMEA case stakeholder was in-house brand creative / marketing agency and our role was streamlining go-to-market operations when it comes to marketing & creative content support of 47 EMEA countries based ( x time city teams) growth marketeers. We also had interactions with other regions (LATAM, APAC, NA).
ur digital brand production talent is located in lower cost countries and can be leveraged through both content factory agency services or contracted remote help working side by side with in-house teams making it a hyper-competitive and cost-effective solution for digital brand implementation.
digital brand production talent is located in lower cost countries and can be leveraged through both content factory agency services or contracted remote help working side by side with in-house team
FREEING TIME FOR CREATIVE STRATEGIC WORK THROUGH STRATEGIC (RE)TOOLING, INTEGRATION OF DIGITAL TOOLS INTO A SINGLE INTERFACE, DEDICATED DIGITAL TOOL EVALUATION ROLE AND DIGITAL (TOOL) ADOPTION SERVICE - HELPING CREATIVES ACCEPT NEW TOOLS
With reported average cost per employee of SaaS subscriptions amounting to $2,884 per year and rising, there is an obvious need to ensure that decisions behind digital tool choices companies, teams and departments make are the right ones. Monetary costs of poorly chosen digital tools are compounded with costs of lost organisational time, team frustration and even potential legal costs, as well as opportunity costs of digital transformation programs' postponement.
Not only are new programs introduced but 40% is replaced with new ones within a year, which means yet additional round of adjustments.
Report from Blissfully, company focusing on harmonisation of SaaS platforms, finds that typical mid-sized company saw 39% of their SaaS stack change last year. This means, that not only are new programs introduced but 40% is replaced with new ones within a year, which means yet additional round of adjustments.
SO DIGITAL TOOL ENABLEMENT created a service that aims to provide ongoing consulting expertise and operational support all those who are facing uncertainties about selection, purchase and implementation of digital tools.
Just one of many ways we rationalise digital tooling is integration of existing tools into a single user interface so you work is spread out across as little different windows. If there are tools that are more in use than others, we investigate whether it would make sense to create a tailored technology solution that would integrate best-of-breed functionalities, replacing continuous licence costs with one-time investment. This type of service works best for large creative teams.
FREEING TIME FOR CREATIVE STRATEGIC WORK BY REPLACING DISPARATE FREELANCER NETWORK WITH AN INTERNAL LEASE-TO-BUY REMOTE CREATIVE CONTENT FACTORY & DIGITAL PRODUCTION HUB.
Replacing administrative, financial and legal burden of many individual vendors with a single umbrella vendor reduces time spent of operational tasks, while achieving same, if not greater, efficiencies and creative output.
Creating a remote (lower cost country) brand creative content factory teams & digital production hubs working as internal ecosystem partner solves both the operational shortcomings of the traditional in-house creative production model and operational pains in-house creative teams face when working with traditional offshore / offsite creative production service providers.
This is especially true if it is set up and operated by an external vendor who takes on the initial risks and sunk costs of set up until creative remote team becomes entirely functional and ready to be integrated with the main in-house team.
Some of the benefits compared to freelancers, involve internal culture alignment, directed hiring, simplified legal & administrative operations,
Creating time for strategic, creative conceptual work starts with reducing your time spent on tactical, implementational, technical and administrative tasks and operations. Growing into the role of strategic creative partner to the business means both rationalising and scaling your internal operations, resourcing and workflows.