Report Shows Morale Challenges for In-House Creatives

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In-house creative teams have challenges—plenty of them. A February report from nonprofit InSource for inMotionNow raised a list of concerns about how in-house teams are led, questions about the declining morale of staff, and notes how other departments within organizations stymie the creative process.

In this report, in-house creative teams give their feedback on their professional world.

The report based its findings on a survey of 566 in-house creative and marketing professionals and put a focus on helping solve the potential challenges.

“Bringing creative in-house promises greater efficiencies and higher quality creative work, but organizations can’t just bolt on a creative team and expect miracles,” says Alex Withers, chief marketing officer for inMotionNow. “In order to reap those benefits, creative and marketing teams must develop a strategic relationship.”

Marketing and Morale

Morale is an issue. And leadership is partly to blame, according to survey respondents. With 64 percent of those in the survey calling their in-house creative leadership effective and 54 percent of those saying the marketing leadership is effective, that equated to less than half of those in the survey —45 percent — saying morale on the creative team remains high.

Creative and marketing still struggle to work together. Not even half of those in the survey say that the relationship between their creative and marketing teams has improved in the last year. And with only 51 percent saying the collaboration between the two groups was beneficial (nearly 80 percent of creatives say they receive feedback on the performance of their assets occasionally or not at all), the communication between the two groups wasn’t shown as strong.

“We all need to have an appreciation for the value of the ‘ask,’” says Timm Chiusano, VP Production & Creative Services for Kernel. “If any of us is making a request or assigning a deadline, we must understand both the ‘why’ behind that request and the work that goes into fulfilling it.”

Alignment Aspirations

Aligning creative and marketing has a payoff. Not everyone showed concern with the relationship between creative and marketing. Of the teams that reported a strong alignment between the groups, they were also 18 percent more likely to report strong collaboration, 16 percent more likely to value leadership, 12 percent more likely to report using best practices, and 12 percent more likely to have strong morale. The strong relationships also led to better creative briefs, open communication, an understanding of the creative process, use of project management, and workflow tools and frequent project check-ins.

Courtney Brown, creative projects manager for the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, gave an example of the creative team learning how assets performed from the marketing team, which led to better understanding for designers. “From taking those simple steps to build and strengthen the creative-marketing relationship,” she says, “everyone trusts that the creative direction helps us reach the collective goals we have.”

In-House Creative Time is Ticking

Top challenges include timelines. As the workload demands grow, the deadlines shrink. That puts pressure on the creative team, leading one to say they have become “mechanical artists” robotically producing content. Cassidee Owens, creative services manager for the NFL’s Denver Broncos, says tracking time and opening collaboration helped change her organization’s culture. “The creative shop was once viewed as a services organization, where the client brought forward an idea and creative just executed,” she says, “to one where we are in fact strategic partners. It also makes us more efficient because it allows us to generate a lot of options in a short period of time.”

Administrative tasks pile up. A whopping 72 percent of survey respondents say obtaining the necessary information just to get started on a project soaks up valuable time. And nearly half say they spend one day a week or more on non-creative work, a number growing year over year. But most concerning, the report says, is the chasing: 22 percent say they spend 10 hours or more a week chasing down information, feedback, and approvals.

On the flip side, creatives that spend four hours or less on administrative tasks in a week are more likely to report effective leadership, use of best practices and an ability to get assets done efficiently. Joe Carmon, senior creative specialist for VSP, says teams need to work on changing expectations, standardize the creative brief and provide continuous opportunities to learn if organizations are going to see improvements.

Practicing Best Practices

Are best practices keeping up? While more than half — 60 percent — say the creative team uses best practices, that still raises the question of if the in-house creative team has the time, or the desire, to stay current on best practices. With about 20 percent saying they know the team isn’t using best practices and 37 percent saying their organization doesn’t invest in training and development, that question won’t be going away anytime soon.

“It takes a partnership between the creative and marketing teams to really increase the effectiveness of creative,” says Brent Chiu-Watson, Adobe senior director of product management. “Both parties need to share an interest in performance analysis and be open to surprising insights. When the teams find insights, learn, adapt and iterate together you see real business impact.”

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.