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Tackling a cat’s cradle – how to streamline the creative process in modern marketing

Tackling a cat’s cradle – how to streamline the creative process in modern marketing

By Jan Quant, CEO, Screendragon

Whatever changes the marketing industry has gone through in recent years, no-one can deny that it has become more complicated. Projects have more ‘moving parts’ than ever before and the timescales that marketers have to contend with are so short that appropriate process management and a vibrant creative process can seem like mutually exclusive impossibilities.

The following are my guidelines for streamlining the creative process, while still maintaining verve and originality.

Rationalise your guidelines

Process management is about the implementation of guidelines, but if those guidelines are overly complicated then no process can ever ensure timely delivery of content. Therefore, investment in strong, simple, clearly worded brand guidelines will be repaid many times over, particularly when the brand voice has to respond to relevant events in local or national affairs. Rather than being lost in a tangle of existing regulations, topical guidelines can be clearly highlighted, and their order of precedence easily ascertained.

Streamline collaboration and sign-off

This is all made much easier when the process is automated, and conducted through a dedicated, high-bandwidth channel. Such a scheme can also facilitate better collaboration – which means that the very same measures which increase control and ensure compliance can also invigorate the modern creative process. For example, real-time, viral and social content requires originality and creative verve, as well as a very strict approval process to ensure that ‘edgy’ does not turn out to be offensive or even characterless. Using the same channels for this as are used for other business processes can be highly inefficient, but a specialised channel means that individuals can use their time in the most efficient way possible. With a clear indication of sign-off status on each piece of work, nothing can reach the public eye that ought not to.  

Let creatives create – but manage their contributions

A technology-based system will also allow a more efficient use of time in more general day-to-day creative activities. The number of different skill-sets involved in a planned multi-channel campaign is even higher than in responsive activity and, in order to make sure that great ideas are not spoiled by the differing concerns of many cooks, there must be a rigorous means of orchestrating collaboration. In turn, that requires that real thought is invested in defining what type of input is needed from which teams, and at which stage in the creative process. Those decisions can then be reflected by an automated system of progression, which means that creatives can spend more time being creative, and less time on decision making, process management, and minor technical issues.

Above all – be businesslike

It takes nothing away from the creative process to say that it should be managed as the rest of the business is managed. In order to maintain efficiency, and to get the most from any marketing programme, it must be subject to the same level of accountability, productivity and constant improvement as any other business process. Therefore, once the processes have been streamlined, and the creatives are free to do what they do best, marketing leaders must insist that processes are procedures are maintained.

At Screendragon, we call this Lean Marketing, as it is an application in marketing of the principles of lean manufacturing and lean process management. It’s also a term used by many of our clients, such as Kellogg’s. Whatever term one prefers, such an approach is necessary if marketers are to continue to deliver value to the businesses they work for.

Great ideas cannot be manufactured like sausages or microwave ovens, and creativity will never be redundant in marketing. However, in order for marketers to help fulfil the true potential of the multi-channel world, it is imperative that we do automate some aspects of what we do, to maximise the efficiency of our work, and deliver the best possible results for our clients.


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