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Creative Development Post-Pandemic

31 Jul

Creative IdeasFew would debate that creative development services are one of the most critical skill sets provided to advertisers by their agency partners. Thus, as agencies the world over adjust to their employees working remotely it is natural to wonder how this dynamic will reshape creativity?

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” ~ Theodore Levitt

How, for example, will working remotely impact the gathering and imparting of knowledge, insights and inspiration between advertiser and agency? Between creative directors and their teams? Between agencies and their production resources?

The answers to these questions, and others, require multi-disciplinary inputs that will necessarily impact creative workflows and timelines. Whether in the context of the creative briefing and approval processes, creative asset management or the trafficking of finished work, advertisers and agencies alike will need to rethink the procedures that guide this process from end-to-end.

Once creative processes have been reviewed, mapped and guidelines issued, stakeholders must shift their attention to “execution,” which is central to successful innovation (doing new things right).

The first item to be addressed is the creative brief. Relationships in which advertisers and their agency partners had implemented and honed a solid briefing process, pre-COVID, will find themselves ahead of the game. Evolving the tools and procedures related to both the joint and internal agency briefing process is infinitely easier than creating them from scratch.

During the creative ideation phase, a remote working environment presents a unique set of challenges, the least of which is the collaborative process between creative leadership, art director, copywriter, content producer, etc. To this end, in a London Business School article by Richard Hynter the author mused about what the pandemic can teach us about creativity. This included his belief that practitioners will need to focus their orientation and efforts on three components of creativity; expertise, thinking skills and motivation. How agency creative management adapts its approach to address these areas will greatly aid and abet its creative development process… and outputs.

For most of us, it is likely that over the course of the last several months, we’ve logged more time on web-conferences, Zoom meetings and conference calls than one would care to. Welcome to the “new normal.” Along the way, we have experienced the subtleties of presenting data, proposals and yes, creative using these tools. While not ideal, being able to hone one’s skills to embellish the presentation of creative concepts is essential to secure client buy-in to an agency’s creative recommendations. How these presentations are staged, who attends and how feedback is shared will be critical to the creative approval process and, in turn, the development timetable.

Wash, rinse and repeat…

With client sign-off secured, ad agency creative personnel must set about briefing third-party vendors (i.e. production houses, illustrators, animators, digital video editors, etc.) to solicit proposals, begin work and to coordinate the ad production process. Managing the production workflow across multiple organizations, with employees working remotely will require adept project management and creative asset management skills along with a robust technology platform(s) to facilitate. Having a centralized creative file management system, will greatly assist the creative development, review, approval, tagging, delivery and tracking phases of the process, whether work is completed at the office or remotely.

Based upon casual observations of the creative that has been produced and placed since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, agencies and advertisers have done an excellent job adapting to the new environment. Continuing to refine the processes already employed and implementing new tools and guidelines to assist a remote workforce will only help drive creativity on a post-pandemic basis.

Are Advertisers Fully Realizing the Benefits of These Production Trends?

2 May

digital production managementPerhaps one of the more significant trends within the advertising industry in the last decade has been the advent of digital asset management platforms and the continued move toward the decoupling of creative development and cross platform production.  

These innovations have resulted in a number of meaningful benefits for advertisers including; the ability to maintain consistent brand standards across the globe, minimizing required production lead times and reducing expenses in this area.  Agency holding companies to have been the beneficiaries of improved efficiencies tied to their horizontal strategy of creating in-network production centers to serve clients across their network of agencies.  There have been numerous reports from agencies indicating that this de-coupled, centralized approach to advertising production can generate savings for their clients in the range of 20% to 50%. 

There is another trend which is positively impacting production efficiencies… “offshoring.”  Ironically, the practice of offshoring is not talked about quite as openly or as often between advertisers and agencies.  Considered a global best practice in the digital production sector, the ability to leverage an advertiser’s digital asset repository from anywhere in the world has fueled the rise of digital production hubs in markets such as Bogota, Colombia, Sao Palo, Brazil and New Delhi, India.  The reason is straight forward.  These markets provide access to a growing talent pool of digital production specialists, while offering comparatively low labor costs that can be as much as 70% below that of North American and Western European markets.  

In our agency contract compliance auditing practice we review numerous client-agency agreements complete with agency staffing plans, labor and studio rate sheets and direct labor cost work-ups.  Of note, it is rare that these documents provide any transparency into an agency’s use of in-network production centers or their utilization of an offshoring strategy.  Rather, we see agency overhead and direct labor rates by function, which reflect more traditional staffing models and costs affiliated with U.S. creative hubs such as New York, San Francisco and Chicago.     

The obvious question to be asked is; “Are advertisers fully participating in the efficiency gains related to these practices?”  Based upon our experience, too often advertisers do not have the requisite transparency into this area to assess the extent to which any realized production efficiencies are flowing through to their bottom line.  As the twentieth-century U.S. architect and engineer, Richard Buckminster Fuller once said: 

“None of the world’s problems will have a solution until the world’s individuals become thoroughly self-educated.” 

Interested in learning more about your true production costs?  Contact Cliff Campeau, Principal at Advertising Audit & Risk Management at ccampeau@aarmusa.com to schedule your complimentary consultation on this important topic today. 

 

Assignment Briefing Process: A Three Step Approach

30 May

assignment briefing processIt should be clear that advertisers’ “own” brand strategy and are therefore responsible for the assignment briefing process. With multiple agencies making up an advertisers marketing services vendor network, how can you have it any other way? Coordinating efforts across this collection of specialist agencies to achieve innovative, impactful, integrated marketing campaigns that deliver on the organization’s goals is the responsibility of the Marketing Team, which is ultimately accountable for generating a return on marketing investment.

There was an intriguing piece written in Advertising Age recently by Casey Jones of Jones & Bonevac on the assignment briefing process that identified results from a recently fielded survey by his firm. The survey found that 54% of agencies surveyed said that “fewer than 40% of the client briefs provided gave a clear indication of what the client expected from the agency.” And of that number; “… 30% said only 1% – 10% of briefs provide clear performance expectations.” This is an issue which creates pitfalls ranging from wasted time and money to ineffective marketing outputs and client/agency discord.

The remedy to this problem requires three relatively straight forward steps. The first is the easiest… develop an assignment brief template containing the requisite information fields necessary to be completed by the Marketing representatives responsible for the brief development. This would include information such as brand value propositions, key competitive differentiators, target audience insights, market/ competitive overview, historical brand performance data and quantifiable objectives for the project. Secondly, formalize an internal review and approval process which includes key stakeholders and senior Marketing management to provide an opportunity for both strategic input and discussion surrounding assignment “success” criteria and how the attainment of those criteria align with the organization’s objectives. Thirdly, construct a concise assignment briefing meeting format that the organization follows to present the approved brief to their agency partners, engage in dialogue with the agency representatives and clarify each agencies roles, responsibilities and deliverables.

Professionals within both the client and agency organizations are intelligent, motivated and desirous of a successful campaign outcome, thus formalizing a framework for the assignment brief can immediately improve the efficacy and efficiency of the entire creative development process. Why? A tighter assignment briefing process results in better creative briefs and stronger creative outputs.

 

Is the Notion of Uncoupling Production from Creative Really That Foreign?

5 Mar

There is an interesting approach in the creative services procurement area that has been gaining traction among large, multi-national advertisers… the “unbundling” of creative and production services. As part of this unbundling process, advertisers turn to a production specialist, rather than their creative agencies as a resource for generating creative outputs.

At first glance, this seemed an unusual move fraught with agency management challenges and the risk of sub-standard creative outputs tied to the uncoupling process. However, upon further reflection, the approach is not dissimilar to the process employed today. The chief difference is that the advertiser serves on point in sourcing and managing the production resource rather than the agency. Aside from the obvious improvement in agency fee transparency tied to the segregation of services, the benefits are certainly intriguing.

With the advent of technology enhancements in the area of digital brand asset management systems, a production resource that can provide support across multiple regions and generate outputs for a myriad of media touch points could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the advertiser’s creative development process. How? Effectiveness can be enhanced by the ability to manage brand expressions on a consistent basis, around the globe and across media. From an efficiency perspective the centralized control afforded by a brand asset management system and a client sourced production resource will improve the level of repurposing of creative assets, thus reducing the need to recreate the wheel time and time again across an advertiser’s creative agency network.

Finally, in a market where response time is a highly prized commodity, this approach will help advertisers carve time out of the creative development cycle. Interested.in an agency professional’s take on this approach? Check out the following blog by Steve Puttock, Managing Director of Schwak London Read More.

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