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Rationalising global brand marketing, creative and eCommerce operations
Growing Brand Content Needs and Growing Brands' In-House Teams
Fast paced digitisation and digitalisation of marketing environment for global organisations created an urgent need for incubation or acquisition of digital capabilities. Even though initially digital brand and creative content capability gaps were bridged by extending agency rosters, this proved to be economically and operationally unsustainable model for majority of global brands. Fact that demand for content via digital channels was exploding, the only sustainable solution in the long-run was creation of in-house creative capabilities. It’s no secret that many brands are benefiting from moving work in-house—it cuts agency fees and allows clients to more efficiently combine creative and business talent under one roof.
Growing content needs meant growing in-house creative teams.
A 2018 report of Association of National Advertisers (ANA), a marketing community in the United States, comprised of more than 1,100 leading companies, representing estimated 25,000 brands that collectively spend $400 billion in marketing and advertising each year, revealed that almost 80% of members have some form of in-house agency. The study also found that the number has grown substantially over the past five years, with rapid increase in 2018. This is compared to 58 percent of marketers who took some form of advertising in-house in 2013, and 42 percent in 2008 — the last two times the survey was conducted. Around 45 % of respondents established their in-house agency within the past five years. So, within last 10 years, 68% have started an in-house agency, while 45% of those, has done that within last 5 years. Growing content needs meant growing in-house creative teams.
But, growing teams, means growing pains.
However, such fast paced incubation of new capabilities, through acquisition of new people and formation of new departments, can't go without challenges of its own. Growing teams, means growing pains. Majority of growth related challenges for in-house agencies and in-house creative brand teams come from within. "2017 In-House Creative Industry Report" published by Cella Consulting notes of growing accountability in-house team face, for brand they serve and companies they work for. With growing accountability comes an increased workload, but most of the respondents note that growing workload isn't reflected in equally growing headcount. As they were initiated mostly due to cost cutting reasons while valuing integration benefits, in-house creative teams are pressured by efficiency imperative. Small creative teams serve many stakeholders in performing important work.
Growing workload isn't reflected in equally growing headcount.
It’s often the smaller in-house studios that are under pressure to complete a growing number of projects with the same amount of resources and budget. Being so close to the business, being part of the company, and having go-to-market speed as as imperative, brings another layer of challenges - perception of infinite internal resources, marketeer's request and last minute changes which take the toll both on resources and on morale. Heavy workloads and poor planning leads to stressed studio teams, which is exacerbated by improper digital enablement where heavy reliance on spreadsheets to manage projects and resources can result in more work for creative teams. Because of inadequate digital enablement of the newly founded team, definition and implementation of processes and standard operating creative procedures, creatives are mostly busy putting out fires and doing not just creative work, but project management work, for which they neither equipped nor signed up for. Inefficient tools are making more work for creative teams rather than streamlining the process. Creative team members — creative directors, account managers, graphic designers — are spending time on tasks that are clearly operational, leaving less time for creative pursuits.
Creative directors, account managers, graphic designers — are spending time on tasks that are clearly operational, leaving less time for creative pursuits.
Members of in-house creative teams say the biggest challenge they face is the speed at which they are expected to work, according to recent research from inMotionNow and InSource. The report was based on data from a survey of 400 professionals who work for in-house creative teams at brands. Respondents said the top challenges they face are keeping up with the speed of work and keeping up with the the volume of work. Problem is that standard operating procedures, workflows and systems are usually an afterthought and come into play when a creative services group’s volume of work is significantly increased, and so is its size. But if implemented early, these tools provide transparency, clarity of roles and responsibilities, automated support and efficiencies, resulting in increased productivity — and a stronger foundation to support growth.
Inefficient tools are making more work for creative teams rather than streamlining the process.
Outnumbered : Demand vs Capacity Gap of In-House Brand Creative Teams
Problem of brand creative content demand growth which outpaces the headcount growth is obvious by looking at reported average creative team sizes. Data from reports reveals that majority of brand creative in-house teams are fewer than 10 full time employees. For really big, global organisations and global brands those might climb to 25-30 team members. Very few rise above those numbers. Businesses are highly dependent on small creative teams that serve large and complex ecosystem of stakeholders. Aside of creative and brand excellence, procurement & brand creative supplier management, in-house brand creative teams are expected to fulfil roles of creative operations excellence and project delivery excellence. In-house brand creative team needs to lead global creative operations excellence - develop and governs the use of tools, platforms, processes, performance management approaches and other operational best practices designed to enable high-quality, timely, and cost-effective creative execution across countries. One of its roles is also to direct, project manages and executes the delivery of high-quality, timely, and cost-effective creative and content assets as needed at the corporate and product levels of the organization. This is accomplished through both managing the in-house creative team and the company’s portfolio of 3rd-party suppliers. It’s not uncommon for a team of fewer than 10 creatives to support the demands of 50+ stakeholders in business with $500 million or more in revenue.
2018 In-House Creative Industry Report - Department Resourcing Report
It’s not uncommon for a team of fewer than 10 creatives to support the demands of 50+ stakeholders in business with $500 million or more in revenue.
In todays very busy digital market (in particular) it is imperative to make sure your brand is in line at all times with what your company stands for. With exponentially rising number of digital touchpoints and within an organisational context of large global organisation, spanning continents, time zones, languages, product, brand and functional matrix organisational lines this is, however, lot easier said than done. The rapidly changing scope of work of in-house agencies from the "2018 In-house Creative Industry Reports" done by Cella and BOSS Consulting reveals the pressure of digital environment. "There was a significant increase in the percentage of in-house agencies providing banner ads and other artwork for website use (from 2% to 85%), as well as in teams creating HTML emails (3% to 66%)".
With speed of "Rise of Digital Brand Touchpoints" HQ teams are often under-capacitated to execute consistently across countries, partners, devices and dimensions. Formula for creating, executing and managing digital band expressions becomes exponential (Countries x Partners x Languages x Devices x Dimensions = Digital Brand Consistency) and this is the part that feels overwhelming for most teams. Small teams, outsized internal client network, and rapidly digitizing marketing environment pressure the in-house creatives up to the breaking point. The organisational complexity, inevitable in global brand organisations, further exacerbates the capacity gap by adding another dimension : the process gap.
The organisational complexity, inevitable in global brand organisations, further exacerbates the capacity gap by adding another dimension : the process gap.
Complexity takes a completely different and new meaning for those who in-house brand creative teams who work in global organisations and serve global brands. Not only does complexity and demands rise because of the sheer number of stakeholders involved and brands managed, but also because of the fact that they operate across multiple countries, geographies and timezones. As it is based on a single global creative that needs to be replicated across markets, global brand campaign execution is a geographically dispersed organisational activity whose success requires brilliant implementation of materials conforming to established brand guidelines. Because execution happens through intense time sensitive coordination and communication across geographical locations between countries, partners and vendors, benefits of global brand as a marketing strategy - lower marketing costs, can be often offset by higher management costs - which is known as “global brand paradox".
With continuously rising heterogeneous brand content market demand streams, communication of campaign details and creative direction becomes a constant challenge. As headquarter teams are unable to systematically cope with operational and administrative load, foundation of global branding - brand consistency across markets may starts to erode.
As headquarter teams are unable to systematically cope with operational and administrative load, foundation of global branding - brand consistency across markets may starts to erode
The organisational complexity is nowhere more present than in global organisations that follow global brand as a marketing strategy with headquarter leading, global-to-local execution model. For a campaign to be executed, brand creative team needs to work with brand marketeers in headquarters, but also those across regions and countries. It is within these campaign launch time bound upstream and downstream communication (from headquarter to countries and vice versa) that most of the waste happens as it is done either through email chains or through different type of project management tools that weren't designed for brand directives communications, viewing, and distribution.
Subsequent versions or very final version of the campaign creative might not be the one that gets implemented in the market.
In these cases when retail and digital brand directives are shared via emails, they get misplaced, undelivered or unseen in marketeers' already flooded email inboxes.
For most if not all global brand organisations - most common 'brand creative operations' software is 'Microsoft Outlook' inbox.
Process driven digital enablement of branding and global creative operations seems to have bypassed even biggest and very brand driven organisations. Digital evolution seems to have happened only up to the level of DAM solutions - which are basically just digital warehouses for storage of assets. However, operations which involve actual steps of branding, workflows, and especially top-level ones - between geographically dispersed organisational levels which work as virtual teams in global campaign execution, still rely on email as a 'branding software'. That is why, for most if not all global brand organisations - most common 'branding software' is 'Microsoft Outlook' inbox.
Digital evolution seems to have happened only up to the level of DAM solution
As global campaign launches often have last-minute changes and adaptations to the global creative, within more than present communication gaps between headquarters and countries, subsequent versions or very final version of the campaign creative might not be the one that gets implemented in the market. Because of these last minute changes, and general creative brand content supply chain issues, many organisations work with brand creatives that are "WIP - work in progress". This type of brand creative directives version is an attempt 'extend' the time gap and provide some 'breathing space' to country teams for actual implementation in the market, as the last-minute changes might only apply to 5-10% of the initially provided creative. However, even without versioning. last minute changes, WIP versions of brand creative directives, country campaign implementation is fraught with dangers to brand consistency. With incomplete, late or non-exhaustive brand creative directives, faced with a tight window of market opportunities and steep performance expectations, country level marketeers will often act on their own, risking the global brand equity.
With incomplete, late or non-exhaustive brand creative directives, faced with a tight window of market opportunities and steep performance expectations, country level marketeers will often act on their own, risking the global brand equity.
Digitization and Scalability as the Only Answer to In-house Capacity vs Demand Disbalance and Process Gap.
Located at global or regional headquarters the mission of brand-creative in-house teams is to consolidate creative operations into a single creative centre of excellence that supports & guides local business units (countries) in brand creative campaign implementation. Country content request and country brand creative content implementation and adaptation requests if not systematised properly can cause havoc for internal in-house brand creative team's scheduling and put a major strain on already limited resources. With exponentially rising number of digital touchpoints, business process management technology unsupported global branding function, global brand campaign execution means only one thing : email chaos, asset chases, online conferences with marketeers across the globe and late nights at the office.
The problem lies in the fact that variety is a disabler of scalability. And to disable variety one needs to seek to standardise it. Standardisation is then prerequisite for scalability, which means that global creative operations need to be standardised as much as possible. After standardisation the conditions are set to translate them to a digital form and if possible order them in steps required to be done by individual user levels in the form of a process and (sub)tasks. Defining processes and translating them to be enforced through digital platforms enabled by business process management workflows digitises them, enabling scalability.
So, from economic perspective, a centrally run headquarter function or team could now easily scale - expand coverage of the number of countries and stakeholders with only incremental costs
Scalability is a characteristic of a system, model or function that describes its capability to cope and perform well under an increased or expanding workload or scope. A system that scales well will be able to maintain or even increase its level of performance or efficiency even as it is tested by larger and larger operational demands. Business wise 'growth' means adding resources at the same rate that you’re adding revenue, while 'scaling' means adding revenue at a rapid rate while adding resources at an incremental rate. So, from economic perspective, a centrally run headquarter function or team could now easily scale - expand coverage of the number of countries and stakeholders with only incremental costs. Or with only incremental costs handle total global market stakeholders demand and put balance on scales between them and the marketing environment (internal and external).
Balancing the Scales between In-House Creative Team Capacity and Pressure of the Marketing Environment (Internal & External)
Scalable brand creative operations handling was at the core of our solution implemented for an in-house brand creative team of UBER EMEA, which was responsible for supporting growth marketeers in 47 countries.
SO DIGITAL GLOBAL BRAND CONTENT EXCELLENCE PLATFORM helps in-house brand creative teams of global brands effectively mange the relationship with local business units in terms of creative brand direction, campaign content demand streams, local adaptation request and worldwide learning.
- Aesthetics & Visibility
Campaign project details, brand content and brand creative implementation guidelines are merged together and made available within aesthetically pleasing and highly functional design context that enables quick access and visibility of available materials for download and implementation locally.
- Market Visibility & Country Content Systematisation
Our solution leverages technology to systematise and simplify market-by-market visibility and availability of brand approved campaign directives and brand content while providing scalable digital production support resources of principal partnership agency for tier 2, tier 3 content design execution and/or adaptation requests by markets / stakeholders.
- Merged Creative Direction & Campaign Launch Details
Campaign project details, brand content and brand creative implementation guidelines are merged together and made available within aesthetically pleasing and highly functional design context that enables quick access and visibility of available materials by countries and remote marketeer teams for download and implementation locally.
- Country - by - Country Access / View to Content
Country / user level specific view to the platform content ensures content access speed & relevance while having campaign creative guidelines sortable and visually presentable per multiple editable criteria cuts target campaign search time.
- Easily Accessible Campaign & Campaign Directives Overview and Management
Unlike DAM solutions whose structural logic stems from individual asset / file management, SO DIGITAL BRAND CONTENT EXCELLENCE usage architecture resides on campaigns and campaign directives management, within which individual assets are made available for download. Management of campaign directives & campaigns and not assets.
- Digitisation of Workflows between InHouse Creative Team and Principal Partnership Agency
Functional operations with client/stakeholders and principal partner agency are completely digitised and translated to platform interface which enables data driven learning and continuous improvement of creative operations.
Execution, Not Strategy, Separates Leaders from Laggards. Leverage our platform to create organisational simplicity and deliver speed and efficiency in execution across markets. Align inside to win outside.
Creative brand management is in itself complex, should your organisational execution increase or decrease this complexity? Simplify global brand operations - use a single point of contact and engagement for all phases of brand campaign execution. Make your day-to-day operations and workflows SO SIMPLE, SO EASY, SO FAST - SO DIGITAL
Contact us today for a no-commitment walk through of SO DIGITAL platform solutions implemented for clients like Nike EMEA and Uber EMEA.
Danielle Gibson, The Drum, "The era of in-housing? Spotify, News UK, TUI and Oliver wade into the debate" https://www.thedrum.com/news/2019/03/26/the-era-housing-spotify-news-uk-tui-and-oliver-wade-the-debate
Vikram Alexei Kansara , Business of Fashion, "The Digital Iceberg" https://www.businessoffashion.com/articles/fashion-tech/the-digital-iceberg-luxury-fashion-marketing
Gideon Spanier : "6 key in-housing lessons brands and agencies have learned" https://www.campaignlive.com/article/6-key-in-housing-lessons-brands-agencies-learned/1520789
Oliver Mcateer, CampaignLive.uk : "Number of in-house agencies rise dramatically, ANA study finds" https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/number-in-house-agencies-rise-dramatically-ana-study-finds/1496178
Jodie Byass, Digital Doughnut, "Top 5 Challenges Faced by In-house Agencies" https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2016/june/top-5-challenges-faced-by-in-house-agencies
The BOSS Group and Cella Consulting, LLC. 2018 In-House Creative Industry Report, May 2018.