For creative design and marketing teams, delivering projects on time is critical for delivering growth.
At the same time, there can be no compromises on quality and brand compliance either.
However, as any creative professional will tell you, this is easier said than done.
The reason? There are multiple variables in any creative process. For example, the typical creative brief goes through many rounds of ideation before you can shortlist a few promising ideas.
Then, a series of edits and revisions later, the best concepts are selected. The marketing team, in turn, suggests changes based on their vision for the product and the cohorts they are trying to target.
Finally, if all goes well, the creative gets the final go-ahead. This sets the production process into motion where the different copy and image elements come together, including color, layout, fonts, and size.
Next, project timelines are defined, and responsibilities are divided among team members based on the delivery schedule.
Throughout this process, periodic reviews may be required for any course corrections, even after going live.
That’s assuming nothing goes wrong, of course! Creative production is not always streamlined or 100% efficient, resulting in delays, cost overruns, and even internal conflicts.
This is where Creative Operations comes in. To bring a method to the madness, aligning people and processes most effectively, delivering on-brand creatives consistently.
6 Impact Areas of Creative Operations
Creative Ops’ impact areas directly draw back to making growth marketing campaigns successful. They ease all the operational difficulties that prevent teams from reaching their goals.
1. Turn around time:
Idea to go-live is fast, glitch-free, and predictable.
2. Targeting with scaled content:
For product, offer, multilingual, or behavior-based variations are automated.
3. Channel Adapts:
Sizes and formats optimized for all channels and placements are automated.
4. Continuous experiments:
Between creative copy, and campaign elements at bulk, without redoing.
5. Timely refresh:
Ability to beat creative fatigue before performance slumps without redoing creatives.
6. Collaboration and review:
Simplified reviews, on-time approvals, and synchronized communication at all stages.
The Current State of Creative Ops
Multiple reviews, branding errors, and delivery delays dog 60% of marketing teams today—the reason: the vast majority of teams do not have a creative process that works.
With brands focussing on omnichannel communication, the demand for personalized, on-brand content has skyrocketed recently.
In addition, real-time data is giving brands new insights into customer behavior with campaign goals changing on the trot.
Invariably, creative teams are being told to work faster and multitask on two or more campaigns simultaneously.
Moreover, marketers and designers often do not see the big picture, and a lot of time is lost between approvals, feedback, and revisions.
Result: Too much delay in campaign launch to make a real connection with audiences, especially around the festive season.
In a nutshell, the most significant problems faced by creative operations are:
- Lack of clearly defined processes resulting in confusion and duplication of work
- Poor communication between marketing and design teams, stalling feedback and teamwork
- Repetitive creative post-production work affecting brand compliance and quality.
Why is Ops a Necessary Evil but a Buzzkill for Creative Teams?
Creative campaigns are no less complex than any other business project. Every campaign needs meticulous planning, monitoring, and execution to succeed.
As velocity and scale become driving factors for virtually any brand, there is a clear need for coordination and communication between marketing and design.
Both teams may want more control, but bottlenecks are bound to arise unless they learn to cooperate.
For example, how many designers would agree that sticking to rules regarding naming design files and parking them in the proper folders can save everyone loads of time?
Creative operations management tries to bring order to the chaos that is producing content. It tries to put a set of do’s and don’ts in place and provide more predictability and control to the team members.
The end goal? Everyone working together as a team and at their productive best.
Here’s why Creative Operations are a necessary evil:
1. Multiple Adapts:
With the rise of new media, brands now have to produce creatives in various sizes and formats.
A single creative ad now needs to be formatted and repeatedly resized to conform to different platform guidelines.
This is necessary as the average consumer gets to see around 5000 ads per day.
Therefore, an ad may fail to generate the expected CTR unless all the visual and interactive elements are visible and play properly.
Secondly, brands need to be more strategic in deciding which channels to target.
For example, Gen Zers are likely to spend more time on Instagram than on Facebook. So, brands must map their targeting strategy to the channels frequented most by the target cohort.
Finally, using the right language is just as important. In a country like India, English may be widely understood; however, studies show that regional audiences respond best to vernacular content.
That’s not all; there are many other nuances to think about, such as CTA buttons, video versus audio, color, position, etc.
In other words, designing an ad creative involves multiple decisions. Then, it is time for the actual adaptation work to begin.
In the absence of a creative operations management process that arranges and prioritizes tasks from start to finish, you are likely to miss out on critical aspects of creative production.
2. Consistency/Standardization: Lack of design systems impacts the creation of brand-compliant assets.
Brand safety and compliance are two sides of the same coin. In the age of behavioral targeting, brands must evolve and stick to established guidelines that define what is acceptable and what is not.
Brand safety is not just about making sure your ads appear in all the right places; it is equally about being consistent with sizes, resolutions, and aspect ratios.
Usually, the expectation is designers can manually produce creative variations in bulk, with brand compliance being an afterthought.
More often than not, the designers take on the challenge and painstakingly create variation upon variation to exacting specifications.
However, errors are inevitable given the sheer number of variations within a limited time, leading to compromises.
Moreover, the odds of errors increase further when there are relatively inexperienced people involved.
You can rectify this by introducing design systems – a framework of guidelines and reusable components – visual and typographical – that can be applied to any concept or project.
Design systems produce repeatable effects across a variety of media in a consistent manner.
3. Feedback Cycle: The Never-Ending Loop of Back and Forth between Teams
Creative campaigns and the people who work on them often receive more than their fair share of feedback.
Internal disagreements are par for the course, with the marketing manager, creative director, and copy supervisor all having their say.
If the team does not have ground rules for whose feedback should take precedence, delays are inevitable.
Often, the feedback about what works and what doesn’t can be vague, causing more delays.
After a couple of reviews, the team may have to start again from scratch, resulting in frustration and anxiety.
To be sure, it is not the feedback itself that’s the problem; rather, it is how and when the feedback is delivered that causes all the problems.
The truth is that designers could benefit from more feedback while they are still developing a creative concept. Usually, the feedback arrives after they have finished a draft or two.
Secondly, all feedback should be documented with clear timelines, with everyone involved getting notifications as the conversation progresses. However, this is not always the case.
It is also essential that marketing and design teams agree on a minimum turnaround time for approvals and submission of revisions- without exception. This time frame should be rigorously followed by all concerned.
Some of the ways to streamline creative operations and creative workflow:
The success of creative operations hinges on whether production is carried out on time, whether the workload distribution among team members is optimal and whether reviews are taking place regularly.
If you do a root-cause analysis, you will find that the following three key factors deliver the most dramatic improvements in productivity and quality. These are:
1. Store and centralize creative projects in a single workspace.
How you store your design files has a major bearing on the overall delivery schedule of a campaign.
It can help you refer back to the size and resolution specifications with ease and ensure consistency.
Designers often forget where they may have put the assets they used to create the design.
So, they’re at a loss when they have to make any changes to it later.
Smart organization of creative files and folders in a single platform allows faster discovery and use of assets, providing better control over different variations of a single design.
In addition, the latest creative management platforms come with role-based permissions that restrict edit access and tagging to authorized persons only.
Result: Better collaboration between team members and minimal loss of time.
2. Streamlining reviews, feedback, and approvals
The process you use for reviews, feedback, and approvals can greatly accelerate your creative operations or pull down the team’s performance.
If you have more than 3-5 people reviewing projects, there are likely to be differences of opinion, stalling decision making, and creating a backlog.
Check if there is any overlap between the roles and functions of the individuals doing the reviews.
If yes, you could safely exclude them from the review process. The key is to create lean, real-time feedback loops that make tracking progress effortless for everyone involved.
A Creative Management Platform enables teams to create and review designs and share revisions, all in a single platform. In turn, turnaround time is drastically reduced while productivity increases.
3. Creating reports to measure progress and performance
The real test of a campaign begins after it has gone live. The market’s initial reaction to an ad can validate or call into question the decisions you made during the concept and design phase.
However, not all is lost yet. With creative automation, you can quickly optimize a campaign across its duration by making bulk edits to ad creatives based on the initial report.
For example, based on your top KPIs, you can choose to change the offers/CTA or just change the colors and background to differentiate your ads from those of the competition.
How to Modernize Creative Operations? Simple! Let Automation do the Repetition.
Your creative operations philosophy must evolve to better face the challenges and tap into the opportunities of the digital revolution currently taking place.
Creative automation is proving to be a game-changer in this regard. It has slashed production costs by up to 75% in some cases, dramatically reducing turnaround time and increasing brand compliance.
In addition, creative automation can make design systems used at many agencies and in-house creative teams more effective in delivering consistent results.
It institutionalizes cross-functional collaboration and boosts speed and efficiency across the campaign lifecycle.
An integrated approach to creative design:
- Makes multiple reviews and approvals redundant
- Boosts brand safety by standardizing the various color, typography, imagery, composition, and layout parameters.
- Enables the creation of rich multi-media visual brand experiences
- Leverages performance data for iterative improvements
Four core pillars of Creative Automation:
Creative automation solves your scale and quality challenges through:
1. Feed-based Scale
If you have a storefront that needs new creatives before each campaign, the sheer volume could be overwhelming for your design team.
Creative automation lets you plug in products and offer details from a spreadsheet and create fresh content in real-time.
Thanks to the power of creative automation, localizing content in different languages at scale for internal audiences is no longer a problem.
You can now refresh your ads more often, especially if you notice a drop in CTR.
In addition, from backgrounds to logos and everything in between, feed-based editing allows you to create more ad variations than ever before.
2. Workflow Automation
Why work in silos when you can review, comment, share inputs, and collaborate in real-time?
Workflow automation allows teams to keep track of their deliverables and meet deadlines more effectively.
Thanks to dedicated workspaces, even remote teams can execute projects with precision.
In other words, distributing workload and resources to the people who need them the most is made efficient.
3. Digital Asset Management
By consolidating design files in a single location, creative automation solutions allow designers to reuse and repurpose them with minimal manual effort.
In addition, publishing to multiple platforms takes mere seconds with multi-channel integrations.
4. Seamless Integrations (Creative Ecosystem)
From project management tools and file storage to social media, you can integrate a creative automation tool into various third-party apps to create a complete creative ecosystem.
This plug-and-play functionality allows teams to build, launch and manage omnichannel creative campaigns with clinical precision.
Effective creative operations management holds the key to solving the primary problem of today’s marketers – dwindling attention spans.
Imagine the difference that empowered creative teams, backed by world-class design systems and creative management platforms, could make.
Hyper-personalized campaigns will evolve to become more intuitive than ever before.
In many ways, it signifies a return to the roots – creative professionals focusing on their craft while technology takes care of everything else.
Less Ops, More Creatives – a new renaissance is already here.