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Bridging the Gap: The Creative Team as a Strategic Partner

Bridging the Gap: The Creative Team as a Strategic Partner

Presented by Adobe MAX sponsor inMotionNow.

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The relationship between creative teams and their stakeholders has evolved tremendously since the days of “Mad Men” creative. Shifting away from the glamorous agencies on Madison Avenue, creative teams are increasingly coming in-house, and have come to be seen almost as an external resource, cranking out creative work on-demand for the marketing team. This dynamic between the creative and marketing teams often causes more harm than good by increasing frustrations and reducing overall productivity. However, creative and marketing teams depend on each other, and for them to be successful they must work as an ensemble. Technology is the key to bridging the gap between the creative and marketing clouds.

For an example of a partnership that has significantly improved due to technology facilitating collaboration, transparency, and accountability, look no further than the relationship between marketing and sales. This classic dynamic is often fraught with complaints from both sides about what the other is doing. However, these teams can leverage technology, like a CRM or marketing automation, to streamline process, enable a more collaborative relationship, and increase accountability and trust. Ultimately, this increased closeness leads to higher returns for both teams.

It is important for marketing and creative teams to rebuild that same level of trust and collaboration. Working in tandem allows the in-house creative team to leverage their deep knowledge of the organization’s brand to produce quality content that drives success from brand image all the way to lead quality. As with sales, marketing and creative teams can leverage technology to build a collaborative bridge between the two teams — and position the creative team as a strategic partner, not merely a service organization.

Avoid linear request intake

“Too often creative briefs are regarded as a mere input form. It’s just a way for marketing to obtain something it needs. As such, the creative brief is treated as a checkbox, a step in the process, and a handoff tossed over the wall.”

This quote from Lacey Ford, vice president of marketing and sales at LexisNexis highlights the primary challenge that most creative teams face with the request intake process. Treating the request intake process like a simple form submission kills projects before they even get started by not including enough information to the creative team in the first place — or worse, not giving the creative team a good idea of what the marketing team wants by not establishing objectives, expectations, and KPIs, resulting in a painful review and approval process later on. When project kick-off is transactional, the creative quality will also be transactional.

Starting new work needs to be a perfect balance of process (the brief, properly completed and routed) and collaboration — human conversation and online collaboration. Sitting down and discussing the project, including context and goals, gives the creative team a better sense of what marketing is trying to accomplish, and gives the creative team more inspiration when they start brainstorming and designing.

Increased collaboration at request intake can be facilitated with a creative workflow software that fosters a back-and-forth exchange between requesters and the creative team. After the requester submits the initial form, the traffic manager on the creative side should be able to make comments or ask for additional information from the requester, all in one easy dashboard. Moreover, requesters should be able to see status updates as the project moves through the creative workflow, so that they have a sense of progress.

Use tools purposely built for creative teams

A common mistake creative teams make is to take either a very basic project management software, or whatever project management (PM) software is already being used elsewhere in the organization, and try to apply it to the creative process. This rarely works. General-purpose PM tools are simultaneously too much and not enough for creative teams. They tend to focus heavily on bloated feature sets that are designed to make a project manager happy, but don’t add much value for creatives. At the same time, they often lack key functionality like a robust request intake process, or easy-to-use review and approval.

The key for creative workflow management is that creatives don’t want to spend all day managing their projects. They need a workflow solution that gets out of their way and supports them with the features they need, like robust request intake and review and approval — without sucking their time with excess functionality they don’t need. Creative workflow software built specifically for creative teams helps increase collaboration and strengthen the relationship between creative and marketing teams.

Take the pain out of review and approval

In the 2018 In-House Creative Management Report, over 50 percent of creatives surveyed reported that it takes them more than three days to get proofs reviewed and approved by stakeholders. Additionally, the average creative spends 20 percent of their time annually on non-creative, administrative tasks. Creatives should be spending their day in the Adobe Creative Suite creating awesome content, but instead they are stuck chasing approvals from their stakeholders.

Creative teams can solve the challenge of painful review and approval by implementing software that helps them route proofs to stakeholders for review digitally. Good review and approval software does three things:

  1. It has an intuitive review environment where reviewers can quickly and easily mark up any asset types the creative team produces in context (including video, web pages, and emails).
  2. It allows creatives to build custom proof routes to make sure the right reviewers see the proof in the right order. For example, a proof may need to be signed off on by the marketing director before it can go to the CMO. Proof routes allow creatives to send out work for review to all the relevant reviewers, in the right order. This effectively ends the paper chase and gets reviews back to creatives faster.
  3. It integrates with Adobe Creative Cloud. Creatives (should) spend most of their time living in the Creative Cloud where they actually build all that wonderful content. Extensions that connect the workflow software with the Creative Cloud streamline communication and collaboration between creative and marketing teams, and form the foundation for a stronger partnership.

In-house creative teams are a powerful asset for any organization. That power, however, is dampened when the creative team is treated like a service organization. In order to build quality creative content to power the marketing machine, marketing and creative teams must leverage technology to build a strategic, collaborative relationship.

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