Businesses have increasingly brought creative work in-house, but there are growing indications the transition hasn’t been entirely smooth. 

A survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group and the law firm Reed Smith, found 63% of respondents said “keeping in-house agency talent energized” has emerged as a top challenge. 

The ANA study mirrors some of the key findings from the 2019 In-House Creative Management Report (IHCMR), which pointed to a range of challenges including issues with leadership, morale, team alignment and collaboration. In fact, less than half of respondents (45%) indicated morale on their team was high.

Some of these issues stem naturally from the challenges that come with growth. After all, bringing work, of any sort, in-house is a business transformation that requires change. Still, the data here ought to be enough to capture the attention of any marketing or creative leader.

The question that remains is: what can marketing leaders do about it?

134 Creatives and Designers in Their Own Words  

The 2019 IHCMR asked one final (and optional) open-ended question at the end of the survey that provides sound insight. 

It posed this question:

“If you could ask the CMO for one thing for the creative department, what would it be?” 

Of the over 500 marketing and creative professionals that responded to the survey, a whopping 378 (67%) took the time to write in answers. 

In summary, the answers span a wide range – from intangibles, like trust, respect, understanding and clarity – to the tangible such as training budgets, better creative briefs, a seat at the strategy table, and of course, additional resources. 

We’ve culled through all 378 answers and selected 134 to present here as a representative sample. These responses have only been edited for grammar or style – and without changing the meaning. 

1) “A bigger presence in creating strategies and messages versus taking orders.”

2) “A budget for training.” 

3) “A channel to be heard.”

4) “A contract with stock photo company.”

5) “A creative quarantine room to work so that no creative thought can escape. That’s a joke though, we’re pretty good. Maybe an awesome printer for creative only.”

6) “A large, open workspace.”

7) “A more inspiring environment.”

8) “A magic wand – we need run time for our of our new processes. Hoping changes implemented will bring us to new heights by Dec 2019.”

9) “A more streamlined process for [internal] client communication.”

10) “A new graphic designer – a unicorn who works quickly but produces quality creative work.”

11) “A new tech stack and more data integrations.”

12) “A real budget.”

13) “A real budget. Mac support. A dedicated server.”

14) “A replacement for leader of department.”

15) “A seat at the table – meaning we need to have a creative leader with an advertising/creative/graphic design background who’s opinion is considered equal to all other senior level management.”  

16) “A traffic manager.”

17) “A true ticketing system for creative requests; currently all handled inefficiently via email.”

18) “Accountability within departments other than Creative.”

19) “An additional designer or project manager to chase the clients for information.”

20) “Additional headcount to handle basic admin activities, such as packing up source files, archiving source files, uploading new content to web site(s), assisting with translation tool.”

21) “Additional headcount; engage the creative services team at the onset and every step of the way when engaging outside ad agencies.”

22) “Adherence to our established SLAs and clear communication of the goals to be met. Time is a crucial component in developing the best possible creative solution for any marketing goal.”

23) “Aligning the creative team so we work in close proximity, can help each other out with all brand projects, and we have a collaborative space.”

24) “Allow me to use DropBox-Box and Google docs which are currently banned here.”

25) “An SOP for projects and hierarchy of reoccurring projects.”

26) “An unbiased mind.”

27) “Begin each project with a well-thought out create brief and respond to proofs in a timely manner with DECISIONS.”

28) “Being able to attend more conferences.”

29) “Better annual planning for their marketing initiatives.”

30) “Better equipment, more heads, better environment.”

31) “Better forecasting from the marketing team.”

32) “Better guidance and encouraging people to follow set guidelines–some people complain that they’re not allowed enough creativity because they don’t understand the guidelines and the freedom available within them.”

33) “Better inputs with respect to brand, competition and industry.”

34) “Better IT support.”

35) “Better organization of marketing plans and goals.”

36) “Better planning. More insightful strategic thinking and briefs.”

37) “Better project management software, a traffic or overall creative project manager.”

38) “Better strategic direction.”  

39) “Better workflow and workload management tools.”

40) “Bigger budget for salaries and software and equipment. Sorry not one thing.”

41) “A career path.”

42) “Clarity.”

43) “Clear strategic and operational goals for the organization.”

44) “Clear vision of project goals.”

45) “Clearer objectives for the marketing team as a whole.”

46) “Collaboration among teams.”

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47) “Collaborative creative team environment.”

48) “Communicate your top goals for the year and continue to realign them with sales and creative as business requirements change.”

49) “Consistency.”

50) “Content calendar with project management schedules.”

51) “Creative appeal. Accurate and error-free output. Timely production and attention to detail.”

52) “Creative leadership at the executive level.”

53) “Creative leadership title and autonomy.”

54) “Detailed information at the start of projects. Consistent communication on feedback and revisions and attention paid to projects while open toward completion.”

55) “Detailed reports on analytics.”

56) “Earlier collaboration.”

57) “Easier, more streamlined approval processes.”

58) “Effective management that value the creative team as part of the process and include the creative team at the beginning of a project. Also, to respect the amount of time the creative process takes.”

59) “Empowerment!”

60) “Equal consideration.”

61) “Expand capabilities: Hire a digital designer, photographer and copywriter (all three individuals – not one person doing all three).”

62) “Flexible hours.”

63) “Flexible project management tools to assist in the process and relieve some administrative tasks.”

64) “For the creative department to be separate from the marketing department.”

65) “Higher salary, more time to work on projects, better support, clear guidelines for each project, trust in our professional industry-informed opinion.”

66) “Hold leaders accountable for strategy and the type of information they provide creative. Be effective and align with other groups. Be respectful and appreciative towards creative. Creative ops should be a fair referee and hold teams accountable.”

67) “How can we better track creative’s success for improved marketing success?”

68) “How do you measure value for creative deliverables?”

69) “I wish our marketing team would get on board with streamlined proofreading processes.”

70) “I would like the marketing department to value the creative work more and focus more on the benefit to the client of the creative work. If they projected more value to the clients, they could sell more of our work.”

71) “Include them in every customer touch point to advise and guide as to their contributions both creatively, statically and commercially.”

72) “Increased partnership with marketing.”

73) “Insist that agencies hire more experienced women into creative departments and leadership positions. Insist on a 50% quota at pitch stage would be good, considering women make 80% of purchase decisions, it just make good business sense.”

74) “Invest cutting edge technology to enable the speed of deliverable.”

75) “Less feedback from non-designers.”

76) “Less micromanagement. Trust the creative team to make decisions.”

77) “Less projects so that we can focus our effort on more dynamic, creative solutions.”

78) “Let creatives create.”

79) “Mac computers.”

80) “Make design strategic and invest properly.”

81) “Marketing communications [personnel] who can write a complete brief that is actionable, including vetted and approved copy, creative brief and technical specifications.”

82) “More 1 on 1 time.”

83) “More accountability from the marketing team to deliver strategic and comprehensive information to inform our best possible work.”

84) “More accurate marketing direction with more confidence. Less wavering and changing of minds. More organization and more creative team members.”

85) “More analytics and a way to measure our work. We are sound designers and writers. We are experienced and can be enthusiastic beyond just doing the work. But knowing what we do is effective in a measurable sense, helps us carve out the path we need to take for improvement and growth.”

86) “More collaborators across different skill sets (UX, copywriting, front and back-end development, etc.)”

87) “More complete briefs for major projects.”

88) “More consistent messaging.”

89) “More consultation.”

90) “More creative opportunities; trying new things; pushing boundaries.”

91) “More decisiveness.”

92) “More lead time on projects so we have time to be creative and strategically think through projects rather than rushing against a deadline to complete them.”

93) “More opportunities to work outside of the office.”

94) “More physical space.”

95) “More robust reporting, analytics relating to creative work.”

96) “More time to complete projects or another creative or two to help do the work.”

97) “More training for the creative department.”

98) “Much higher involvement in planning and strategizing for campaigns.”

99) “My creative projects come from people who are not creatives. So, they often don’t have a good grasp on what will go into a project and how long it will take to do it well. It would be nice for them to ask me how long a project will realistically take before they agree to a deadline.”

100) “Opportunities to see what is on trend design wise. Because of our non-urban location, it is difficult to collaborate with creatives from other area.”

101) “Perhaps to divide our team into sectors. One part for long term big picture projects and another for the day-to-day stuff.”

102) “Professional respect. That’s not a joke.”

103) “Project management tool designed for creative.”

104) “Recognize that everyone has expertise, and design is ours.”

105) “Regular briefings about the company’s direction of growth and targets along with status of pitches or projects to quantify creative performance.”

106) “Regular in-office training or presentations on marketing and creative best practice and skills.” 

107) “Respect.”

108) “Room to run with new ideas.”

109) “Some sort of ROI measurement of the impact creative projects have on the business.”

110) “Space, update environment, seating update.”

111) “Speak to the marketing team confidently about the quality provided by the creative team and allow us to do what we do best.”

112) “Sticking to deadlines and ‘real’ project management.”

113) “Strong leadership to push back on creative requests that waste the team’s resources, and requests where the creative team’s input is ignored or overruled.”

114) “Stronger understanding of digital needs.”

115) “Stronger understanding of the creative process. Better pre-project organization on scope and goals.”

116) “Studio or office set up that would allow us to work more efficiently.”

117) “That EVERY request goes through our project intake.”

118) “That the organization recognizes the value of brand and creative strategy by putting the creative team as key stakeholders at strategy and development meetings and committees. Not just after all has be decided and then left with just making pretty pictures or doing something cool.”

119) “The ability to let poor performers go.”

120) “Thoughtfulness on wants versus needs.”

121) “To acknowledge the creative department value.”

122) “To be included at the very beginning of a project.”

123) “To be listened too in regard to our platform specialty [creative].”

124) “To be more involved in the business strategy thus better understanding our projects goals.”

125) “To be treated as the experts in our field that we are.”

126) “To become completely agile.”

127) “To have a bigger part in the strategy.”

128) “To have more effective communication in between our scheduled creative meetings.”

129) “To put backing behind our suggestions.”

130) “To sit in on internal client meetings where creative is being presented.”

131) “Training and development, and a strong foundation in creative operations.”

132) “Trust.”

133) “Walls. We’re in an open office plan. It looks good for tours but can be really disruptive.”

134) “We would ask the CEO for a CMO or a CDO. We don’t have officer level marketing or creative leadership and we really need it.”

The 2020 In-House Creative Management Survey is now live! Take the survey and let your voice be heard!

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