Yesterday’s creativity will not keep pace with tomorrow’s demands; Businesses need speed and agility without sacrificing creative quality.
“The creativity that was needed in the past is not the creativity that is needed today,” said Matthew Rayback, a creative director at Adobe. He is not talking about the function of creativity, but rather about the process of creative leadership in a marketing context.
What is needed today? Speed and agility without compromising on quality.
Why? Because the pace of change is accelerated. As Rex Salisbury, a contract partner for venture firm a16z, noted early in the pandemic, “Companies of all kinds are experiencing two years of digitization compressed into months.”
This accelerated digital transformation has put pressure on marketing teams to turn campaigns around faster. It, in turn, puts pressure on creative teams to generate the necessary creative material for these campaigns. Leaders need to sharpen their awareness of the creative leadership trends that unfold to keep pace. To that end, the following five such trends are to be seen in 2022.
1. In-house creative teams continue to grow
Companies have been building in-house creative teams for more than a decade. A 2018 study by Forrester Research and the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF) showed that the number of in-house teams has grown by 22% over the last ten years or so. As The Wall Street Journal reported, more than half of advertisers (64%) have moved their creative organizations to an in-house team.
According to a recent version of the same study, internal movement did not stop during the entire pandemic. It revealed, “80% of respondents said they have brought more marketing tasks in-house since the start of the pandemic, with 50% saying the increase was directly triggered by the events of the last two years.”
Companies seem well satisfied with the results because the urge to internally is ready to grow beyond creative teams. For example, a recent survey by customer information firm Axciom found that around 50% of respondents believe that “in-house is currently a top marketing goal and 40% expect it to remain a top priority in the coming years.”
External agencies employed for specialized skills
Despite the in-house trend, there is still the opportunity for agencies, consultants and freelancers, especially those with specialized skills. Even the consumer-packed goods giant Proctor & Gamble, a leading example of brands that bring marketing and creative teams in-house, still needs external service providers.
While in-house creative teams produce the bulk of creative work, the vast majority (86%) also continue to collaborate with agencies and freelancers; according to our own research, published in our 2021 Creative Management Report, which was facilitated by Lytho (formerly inMotionNow) and based on a survey among 400 creative and marketing people.
When the survey asked creatives why they hire external resources, the main reason was access to specialized skills (60%). It was in a distant second followed by a need for increased capacity (44%), help with strategy development (24%) and finally to get the job done faster (20%).
“It is very unusual for an internal team to have no external resources to rely on,” wrote Alex Blum of Blum Consulting Partners, Inc. in a written assessment of the survey results.
He says there are two primary ways to collaborate with agencies. “First, for overflow capacity. There is always a need for more creative resources, and agencies can offer that flexibility without the cost of maintaining larger teams,” he wrote. “Second, internal teams can divide areas of ownership with an agency based on the skills they have internally. “
3. The creative process develops
Marketing today is dominated by an insatiable thirst for fresh content, produced and polished by creative teams. Demand for that content continues to explode.
What does this mean for creative teams? Despite the fact that the number of employees has been added, creative requests exceed the creative team’s capacity to produce it – even when delivery times shrink. Matthew Rayback, the creative director at Adobe, suggested that the creative process should evolve.
He compares creativity to a car factory, where “creatives used to be the assembly line to make a single car.” But today, creatives are tasked with creating multiple cars, each with unique adjustments such as personalization.
“The assembly line we built can’t accommodate that speed or volume,” he says. So the whole factory – the whole creative process – has to have an overhaul to adapt.
4. Quantitative measurement drives creative priorities
Current methods of measuring the value of creative teams focus on output. That is, the measurements tracked tend to quantify the number of creative projects underway, the review rounds, and the number of completed projects over time.
These measurements are important, but they alone are insufficient. A complementary way to prioritize large amounts of creative requests is to focus on the tasks that are most likely to move the company’s needle. The barrier to achieving this is that most advertisements are not kept informed about the results of marketing campaigns driven by their creative efforts. This needs to change.
With the increasing demand for content, the margin of error for using creative resources for projects that do not correlate with business results decreases. Marketing organizations need to build a feedback loop that brings quantitative results back to the creative team. In return, creative teams must learn to use the data to drive their work priorities in collaboration with marketing.
5. Creative resource management becomes essential
Resource management is both a management concept and technology (or a combination of technologies). It is a means of planning, tracking, collaborating and measuring creative operations, including people, processes and budgets.
Traditionally, planning and tracking of everything creative and marketing took place in one spreadsheet. It works well when the future is generally predictable – yet clichéd to say so – we live in a state of uncertainty.
Like many trends over the past 18-24 months, “the global pandemic forced virtual experiences, disrupted marketing channels and campaigns, and accelerated companies’ transition to digital marketing,” according to Forrester. The analytics firm calls resource management “essential” because it helps move “scheduling from static spreadsheets to a dynamic and real-time environment.”
Yogi Berra paraphrased an old Danish proverb when he said: “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” Yet the pandemic has accelerated trends that were already underway, and these five trends are good examples. More than just seeing them, creative and marketing leaders should take steps now to get them ahead.
Selected image via Pexels.