3 Ways Marketers Can Work Better with Creative

Alex Withers
Key Takeaways

​What? Marketing depends on small creative teams for business-critical work.

So what? It's important that the relationship between these two teams is respectful, collaborative and productive.

Now what? Marketers must understand their creative counterparts, provide them detailed information and improve communication to eliminate the administrative interruptions that delay and degrade creative work.

Marketing depends on small creative teams that are increasingly being asked to do more work, in greater variety and at a faster pace than ever before.

That’s according to findings from the “2018 In-House Creative Management Report.” The report is based on a survey of more than 400 creatives and marketers. It was conducted by InSource, a nonprofit professional association dedicated to in-house creatives, to better understand how creative work gets done. 

In recent years, quality creative seems to have taken a back seat to marketing and advertising technology, but the fact remains that good creative is still a linchpin in successful marketing campaigns. Creative is the fuel on which marketing automation runs, and it is an essential element of differentiation. 

The report illuminates some of the critical challenges facing creative, as well as tangible ideas for better collaboration between creative and marketing for the benefit of the business. 

The creative team is no longer considered an art department. The findings support the value of creative work, the challenges in bringing it to life and its indispensability to marketing. 

Creative is Measured by Business Impact 

When asked how they measure the value of creative, the majority of organizations said business impact (55%). This was closely followed by audience feedback (51%) and stakeholder satisfaction (48%). 

Individuals value creative work similarly. Business impact, audience feedback and stakeholder satisfaction were the top three responses among individuals as well, but they placed greater emphasis on audience feedback and stakeholder satisfaction. 

Just 22% of in-house creatives cited industry awards as a measure of success. 

Small Teams Answer to Many Stakeholders 

Most creative work is produced by in-house teams. The study found that most businesses are highly dependent on small creative teams. 

These small teams tend to serve a large ecosystem of stakeholders who often bring competing priorities. Approximately 85% of creatives serve 10 or more internal stakeholders while 60% serve 20 or more. It is not uncommon for a team of fewer than 10 creatives to support the demands of more than 50 stakeholders in businesses with $500 million or more in revenue. 

Demand for Creative Grows in Velocity, Volume and Variety 

Three of the top five challenges facing creative teams are the speed at which they are expected to work, the volume of work they are tasked with and the variety of marketing channels they must create for. 

The proliferation of technology, digital channels and analytics have all added new demands on creative. Not only do marketers need creative projects in market faster, but real-time data collection requires near-real-time adjustments to be made. 

Previous research from International Data Corporation found creative output had increased tenfold to support the variety of channels. The InSource study both validates that finding and creates a new sense of urgency to hire creatives given the dependence business has on their work. 

3 Ways Marketing Can Drive Better Collaboration with Creative

The findings of the study leave marketing leaders with a decision: Creatives are doing important work and delivering results that businesses are dependent on. For better work and results, will marketers invest the resources necessary to maintain the quality of creative? 

There are three ways marketers can immediately address the challenges facing creative teams and drive better collaboration with them. 

1. Understand Creative

Most marketers only see the beginning and the end of the creative process. Few understand it. 

As a result, many marketers’ impression of creative is skewed. They believe good creative can be produced with few resources. “This is a very transactional view of creative and the highly skilled team of people behind it,” wrote one vice president of a global brand in a commentary in the report. “It leads to inefficiencies across marketing and a lower overall quality of work.”

Marketers need to understand creative—the people, personalities, talents, processes and value—to maintain high-quality work. Take them to lunch, shadow them for a day and grow your awareness of the tools they need to get work done. 

2. Standardize Creative Processes

The best way to standardize a process is to document it. A good place to begin is the creative brief and project intake processes. 

The survey found these first steps in the creative process are also the biggest challenges in creative workflow, as reported by 42% of respondents. About 67% of respondents say it’s hard to get the necessary information to begin work. 

The information requirements for a five-minute explainer video will be very different than those for an infographic. Establishing a process will identify the information required for different projects and set them up for success.  

3. Improve Collaboration 

Improving collaboration doesn’t mean inviting the creative team to more meetings. Instead, find ways to give them more time to be creative. 

In this study, most creatives (46%) reported that they spend between three and seven hours per week on administrative efforts. About one-third of respondents said they spend seven or more hours per week on admin tasks. That’s about one full day every week, or 20% of creative time annually, spent on noncreative work.

Improving collaboration means respecting the creative process your organization has documented—providing good creative briefs where they are warranted and being responsive throughout the review and approval cycle. Improving collaboration is about treating the creative team like partners, not vendors. Tighter collaboration between creative and marketing is an imperative. 

This study was equal parts inquiry into the tasks and organization of marketing, advocacy for creative teams and evidence for marketers to consider a point of view that will improve the results we all collectively deliver to the business. After all, creative and marketing are better together. 

Alex Withers
Alex Withers is the CMO of inMotionNow, a leading provider of workflow management solutions for marketing and creative teams. Withers is a seasoned digital technology and marketing executive with more than 20 years of leadership experience.


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September 15, 2018

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