2021 is going to be an important year for creative teams. Not only are creative teams facing challenges to the way they work, they also have and unprecedented opportunity to establish themselves as important contributors to their business. Here are some of the key takeaways from the 2021 Creative Management Report. You can download the full report here.
Creative content sets successful businesses apart
In the 2021 Creative Management Report, 93% of respondents said that creative content is important to the success of the organization’s key objectives. Additionally, 90% of creatives feel that they are getting the same or more credit for driving content outcomes than they did last year. Both of these numbers are up from the 2020 report (89% and 87%, respectively) and show the persistent trend of organizations recognizing the value the creative team delivers to their organization.
“The importance of creative work has always been there. 2020 just made it a bit more obvious to the average consumer, and more necessary than ever before to the business. Those companies that focus on creative work will have real power behind them going into 2021.” – April Koenig, CEO & Founder of Creatives On Call
Creative teams are still feeling the impact of 2020
In 2020 creative teams faced two main sets of challenges. First, they had to pivot the priority, type, and tone of content they produced, and 58% of creative teams faced larger workloads in 2020 than in 2019. At the same time, they faced limited resources in the form of reduced hires, layoffs and furloughs, and budget cuts.
“Going into 2021, we’re focused on multimedia designers. We’re looking to create that digital ‘wow factor’ and raise our digital design skill set capabilities so that we’re aligned on these new requests coming in.” – Hank Lucas, Head of Creative Services at MilliporeSigma
If we learned anything in 2020, it’s that creative teams are resilient. They responded to these challenges by:
- Becoming more productive as a result of working remotely (57%)
- Partnering with external resources to flex and adapt to changes in demand (32%)
- Refining their reporting to better understand key operational metrics (26%)
The “new normal” for creative teams
Creative teams have experienced a permanent, profound change in how they work. This “new normal” will consist of three areas: working more with outside resources like agencies and freelancers, refining key aspects of the creative process, and becoming more data focused in order to speak the language of the business.
“It’s not just about making beautiful art or writing beautiful works. That won’t get you a seat at the strategic table. You get to the table because you’re good at art, and your good at writing, but you’re also good at content strategy, and business strategy, and marketing, and you’re good at thinking about your customers and you’re good at developing user experience.” – Matthew Rayback, Creative Director, Adobe
In 2021 and beyond, creative teams will be asked to wear many hats in terms of technical skills and own the strategic direction of the brand.
The creative ecosystem
As in-house creative teams focused on broader skill sets and strategy, they will form collaborative partnerships with agencies and freelancers to leverage the advantages of a blended approach.
For too long we’ve pitted in-house against agency, and implied that organizations must “pick” one approach. In 2021 we are going to move away from that idea and think more about developing the right blend in in-house, agency, and freelancers to develop a creative ecosystem that can produce the best content outcomes for the brand. 86% of creative teams already work with agency and freelance partners, and 1/3 of creative teams plan to increase the amount that they work with outside resources.
“In-house teams should approach their relationship with agencies and freelancers like this: there is a universe of things that we need to do. What are the capabilities of the in-house team now, what would we like to add, and what would we like to outsource? The emphasis here is that in-house teams are making this decision. They own their brand and are in charge of managing all their creative resources, including external partners.” – Alex Blum, Founder, Blum Consulting Partners, Inc.
Streamlined process is the key to better content outcomes
As a creative, you always want your work to be meaningful and have a positive impact for your organization. One of the most common obstacles to preventing creative teams from delivering the best possible content outcomes is inefficient process. The 2021 Creative Management Report revealed that ½ of creative teams do not have comprehensive and collaborative project kickoff. And that’s just the beginning.
“For years we invested in our process with our stakeholders, spending a lot of time at project kickoff trying to get to the root of what they were trying to solve with any given project. We always tried to provide a next-level option, the “wow” option where we could. We found over time that things that were unheard of three years ago were suddenly happening. As we showed them more of what we could do, they started coming with bigger ideas and bigger budgets.” – Jim Nicholas, Senior Creative at Florida Power & Light Company
In additional data not published in the report creative revealed that their creative workflow could use some help at all stages. Here are some benchmark stats your team can use to see how your creative workflow stacks up:
- 64% of creative teams get final approval on projects in 3-5 rounds of review.
- 68% of proofs are approved within 1 week.
- 40% of creatives spend a full day each week, cumulatively, on admin tasks (Good news – that’s down from 47% last year!)
- 58% of creative teams saw their workload increase in 2020 over 2019 – 36% reported a “dramatic” increase
Proactive creative teams are better with data
Reporting on key operational metrics has always been a challenge point for creative teams. Over the four years of this report we’ve seen a slow but steady improvement in how well teams track and report on creative metrics. However, it turns out that accountability has a big impact on how well a team handles reporting. In the 2021 Creative Management Report 39% of creative teams indicated that they do have robust operations reporting. However, when we dig a little deeper into the data and segment out those teams that report on key metrics to some level of leadership (62%), we see that confidence in reporting shoots up to almost 50%. It seems that being expected to report to leadership helps teams improve their reporting process.
“The key to creative teams being data driven is owning their work. When creative teams are seen as strategic partners to the business and have accountability for the work that they are doing and the outcomes that work is driving, then creative teams can begin to set up the metrics that measure that accountability.” – Matthew Rayback, Executive Creative Director, Adobe
What changes will be permanent
With so many things changing rapidly over the past year, many people have been wondering what changes will be persistent, and what will fade with time. We asked creatives what changes they think will be permanent. 60% said they thought increased remote work is here to stay. Here are some of the other responses we received.
“Our in-house team will be smaller and we’ll rely more on freelancers.”
“We’ll be focused on developing a process to support the highest quality content possible.”
“We are now more resilient and able to pivot and adapt to change.”
“We are going to be more reliant on project management and calendaring tools.”
To hear more from the contributors to this year’s report, be sure to register for the 2-part webinar series: 2021 Creative Management Report: Meet the Contributors.
Elise Hauser is a product and content marketer with a passion for telling brand stories. She has produced inMotionNow’s annual Creative Management Report for 4 years, webinars, content sessions for major industry events reaching audiences of 11,000+, and of course, countless blog posts. When Elise isn’t writing about the marketing and creative industry at inMotionNow she is teaching economics and hanging out with her cat, Tucker, at her home in Raleigh, NC.