Our guest author Suzanne Sangi writes about how a combination of 'Creative' and 'Operations', can help translate into more business impact in much less time.
Digital content consumption has rapidly grown in the past decade, with an exponential bump in the post-pandemic world, seeing as high as a 30% increase across all industries. At the same time, the way digital is being consumed, has also changed a great deal.
Owing to more media consumption and purchasing power worldwide, there’s a growing arms race to stay digitally relevant. Getting people to care about a brand, has only become harder.
To understand how the current communication ecosystem can support this massive leap in digital consumption, I sat down with Satej Sirur and Anurag Dwivedi, co-founders of Rocketium – an enterprise-grade CreativeOps platform, with global adoption across Fortune 500 companies. The duo has spent the better part of a decade, building and perfecting a product that solves the challenge of communicating at scale.
Given that 93% of all communication is visual, the average brand today has about eight seconds to grab people’s attention, all while competing with around 94 other branded creatives.
“It’s like your sugar, carbs and fats, visual content is just a lot easier to consume,” says Sirur.
For enterprises, this means a myriad of things. Staying present across multiple platforms at all times, putting out relevant and timely messages, all the while ensuring that every piece of communication out there, is customised for every target audience.
“We bemoan our audience’s attention span, but the reality is that they're bombarded with hundreds of brand creatives daily. Only a few of these will have the luxury of being seen for more than a few seconds. With every impression carrying so much value, every brand communication has to be eye-catching, personalised and on-brand,” says Sirur, who is also CEO at Rocketium.
However, putting out well-crafted branded communication at such scale and speed, requires a robust system that traditional creative operations can’t support. Across enterprises, we see a fragmented infrastructure of people, processes and technology working in silos: tools that can’t scale production, teams that lack efficiency and data awareness, and manual processes that stretch timelines and curb creativity.
These challenges sound familiar to every enterprise, but what’s missing, is perspective. A communication machinery that doesn’t run efficiently and cost effectively, is everyone’s problem, but the solution requires a shift in thinking – that these are not separate problems to solve. And, brands that want to communicate faster and better, need to bring their teams, processes and tools together, with much greater agility and efficiency.
Moreover, this machinery needs to be powered by a centralised intelligence layer that feeds creative performance insights back into production.
“You want to use the opportunity that technology has given to make communication more personalised, more one-to-one and timely for the consumer,” says Dwivedi.
A combination of 'Creative' and 'Operations', 'CreativeOps' brings together the various parts of design and marketing operations to help brands go live faster with their campaigns, translating into more business impact in much less time.
And, what we’re talking about is a CreativeOps revolution, a new culture of data-inspired creative operations that makes a brand’s communication infrastructure more agile so that scale and speed are no longer challenges. In the same way that DevOps radically changed how software and IT worked together for faster delivery and iteration, we see a similar shift in the way CreativeOps is bringing together business and design teams for greater efficiency and business impact.
“CreativeOps is a growing industry that’s seeing much more innovation in the recent decade. Technology is now solving painful, long-existing gaps between ideation and go-to-market. This is redefining how enterprise teams collaborate. Efficient CreativeOps provides a compelling RoI to enterprises and will be pervasive in the future – akin to marketing automation,” says Silicon Valley investor Ankur Jain, from Emergent Ventures.
While the term 'CreativeOps' is relatively new in the industry, the parts that make up for it, have always been present and evolving.
A latent need brought to the fore: why think CreativeOps now?
Adobe’s recent acquisition of Figma, drew considerable attention to the design tech space and got people thinking a lot more about the opportunities that exist in the world of creative tooling. While design, as a space, hasn't been really looked at as a key piece in driving every marketing effort, consumer perception is, in fact, largely being driven by visual content. 93% of today’s buyers make purchase decisions using design as a proxy for product quality.
Combine this with the short time window that brands have to catch the attention of consumers, there's an increased focus on digital content and design. To keep up with demand for such fast-moving communication, designers and marketers need to figure out how to grow more hands and brains, or harness technology to meet consumer needs.
On the other hand, the way people work, is also changing. New teams are evolving to do more specialised work. And, accordingly, a lot of SaaS softwares are being built to better suit specific team workflows and cadences.
“We’re not asking people to do new stuff with CreativeOps tools. For example, CRM automated the workflows that sales and service teams were tracking across different Excel sheets. Similarly, CreativeOps solves for a seamless and streamlined communication infrastructure for marketing, design and business teams,” says Sirur.
Traditional design tools like Photoshop and After Effects cater to professional designers’ requirements and their fundamental limitation is just that – they can only be used by professional designers. Not only does this lead to years of training and high costs, they're inaccessible to every other team in a business.
The answer to this isn't a different design tool in the vein of Canva or Figma, because they don't address the scale of communication needed for businesses to thrive in today’s digital ecosystem.
Let’s take one of the biggest use cases where scale comes into play – personalisation. McKinsey reports 40% higher revenue growth for enterprises that focus on personalisation, resonating with data on high consumer expectations around receiving only the most relevant communication.
Getting personalisation right can mean creatives uniquely tailored for residents of five countries, 50 states or 500 cities. It can mean showing the right product out of a catalog of 5,000. It can mean saying different things to parents and professionals, golfers and gamers. Legacy tools aren't built for this scale. It's no wonder that enterprises are still early in their journey of personalisation.
Creative automation platforms like Banner, Celtra and Smartly were the first ones to solve these challenges for advertising. These platforms changed the game for marketing and design teams, by unlocking unprecedented scale and speed.
Automating just one part of the creative operations, puts stress on the supporting processes like asset management, approvals, compliance and analytics. Each of these needs to be automated to unlock the promise of speed and efficiency.
This brings us to the question: what are the parts that make up CreativeOps? And, why is it important to bring them together and treat them as one problem to solve?
The evolution of CreativeOps: a domino effect of solutions
CreativeOps is essentially obsessed with the gaps that exist in the communication infrastructure of enterprises. Right from planning to production to operations to insights, the different parts of CreativeOps, are strongly interconnected. We need to identify bottlenecks in each part and solve for it.
“Creative operations is like a factory assembly line. When you have to produce at scale, you divide the labour at different stages. Everyone becomes an expert in their respective roles and then each of those phases needs to have a good handoff. This way you can get to the next job without waiting for five other things to happen first,” says Dwivedi.
Producing 1,000 creatives is one challenge, but it's another one altogether to check each of these against 50 brand guidelines. Asking team members to do this manually and leave comments, isn't the answer.
Like automated tests catch software bugs, marketing design needs automated compliance to catch brand mistakes. Humans in the loop, should do things no software can do, while software should do the heavy lifting of rote tasks.
The next challenge is analysing those thousands of creatives for what’s working and what’s not for several campaigns across multiple platforms. Asking teams to manually tag creatives, download reports from each platform, clean data and then analyse, is a poor use of their expertise. Like with production, there are many parts of analytics that have to be automated.
So, on one level, the goal of an agile CreativeOps system is to remove the manual and repetitive work that marketers aren’t thrilled about. And, on a higher level, the goal is to create more time for teams to think more creatively.
Another big aspect of CreativeOps, is intelligence. Today’s siloed teams lack a single source of truth for communication creatives and their performance. They can find something to inspire them creatively, with a quick Google search, but they will struggle to know how their last set of imagery and copy decisions impacted the business.
CreativeOps needs to have at its centre, an intelligence engine that combines competitive intelligence, industry trends and past campaign performance. Only this can feed into solid data-backed planning for every campaign and creative produced.
“Not knowing is the biggest concern in marketing that, in itself, is all about experiments – you will fail 99 out of 100 times. Where analytics-driven CreativeOps really helps is to give you more chances at success, instead of just relying on one magic bullet,” says Dwivedi.
With the wheels of CreativeOps set in motion, the real transformation for any enterprise is fundamentally around three things.
Bringing together the moving parts of people, process and tools
The biggest challenge for most people, is changing their natural behaviour. So, telling a marketer to produce their own creatives or asking a designer to analyse creative performance data, isn’t the goal of a CreativeOps revolution. Instead, technology should just make their jobs easier and reduce the number of things they have to do in a day.
“Anything that makes people do a single extra thing from what they already do, is actually bad software,” says Dwivedi.
This sharpening of processes and tools built for very specific workflows, is now creating business-centric roles and working styles that never existed before. We can see this across teams with new roles, such as customer success, data engineering and revenue ops.
Similarly, the roles of designers and marketers, are getting more sharpened for business, with teams working in agile sprints and using project management tools that were earlier not associated with creative roles.
“Designers becoming more data-oriented, is a natural evolution. As is for marketers, who're becoming more hands-on with design. Tools in adjacent spaces, help us move higher in our career, as we own more responsibilities. Over time, there will be people whose daily job is to use CreativeOps softwares like Rocketium. We've already seen this in other emerging areas, like marketing automation and sales operations,” says Sirur.
The CreativeOps revolution has already begun, and there’s only one question that remains.
The future of CreativeOps is here. Adapt or stagnate?
What’s fundamentally changed in marketing today, is that every brand is always out there.
“Whatever you do or don’t do, is your brand’s presence – either refreshing your brand regularly or being stagnant. Everywhere you look, that's the marketing campaign of a brand, and it’s always alive, always present,” says Dwivedi.
Brands that are serious about how they communicate with their audiences, are the ones to invest in CreativeOps software. And ideally, this is every enterprise.
“CreativeOps platforms like Rocketium, will become the default for people, who need to continuously think about customer communication daily,” says Sirur.
Armed with automated production, creative operations and powerful analytics, teams will start having answers to many unknowns. These answers will then translate into powerful and streamlined CreativeOps that efficiently brings together existing teams, processes and tools.
“Startups in the CreativeOps space, will start as creative enablers and then expand to adjacent areas of asset management and workflows. The big unlock will be in creating visibility into how consumers engage with the content. By leveraging products like Rocketium that already solve for the entire CreativeOps journey for top global enterprises, there’s nothing that can stop brands from unlocking growth at an unprecedented scale,” says consumer strategist and investor Sajith Pai, from Blume Ventures.
And, this revolution is inevitable. As Dwivedi puts it, “Marketing and design tech will eventually hit a ceiling, unless the glue which is CreativeOps makes enterprise communication a truly integrated and limitless ecosystem.”
(Suzanne Sangi is content marketing manager at Rocketium)