Sometimes, as I’m prepping to hash out our marketing plan for the coming quarter, I find myself thinking about the advertising pages in the back of vintage magazines from the 1950s.

There were ads for X-Ray specs, Exploding Cigars, or Ray Guns, all with corny taglines and hand- drawn graphics. I’m not sure if these companies amounted to more than a closet full of inventory and a few clerks processing orders, but they still managed to become iconic of a more innocent time. 

In the 1960s, GI Joe came along and forever changed the way companies marketed to kids. GI Joe had ads in magazines, TV ads, and colourful, full-sized displays in stores – all sporting the tagline “America’s Moveable Fighting Man.” The cartoon studio Hanna-Barbera even made a film with product tie-ins.

Though it was unsophisticated by today’s standards, it was the dawn of what is now standard practice for brands: targeting consumers through the numerous ways they interact with media to raise awareness and ultimately drive them towards purchasing products.

Today, there are more channels for reaching buyers than ad men of GI Joe’s time could have imagined, and also more tools for targeting customers at different stages of their decision-making process. That means marketers have the opportunity to grow brands faster, and with more customer loyalty than ever before. To do it, however, they need to work well with creatives and have processes in place to help creative teams meet the increasing demand for multi-channel assets.

Businesses aren’t maximising the value of their creative teams

It’s been well documented that designed-focused brands consistently outperform the rest of the market in growth. There’s even an unofficial “Design Value Index” (DVI) that includes 16 brands well known for their design management. Tracked over 10 years, these firms outperformed the S&P by 211%.

Despite their demonstrable value, creatives are still being underutilised as strategic partners. A recent report we conducted at Wrike about the state of creative teams today revealed that 34% of in-house creatives said their biggest pain point is that they’re viewed as a service provider, rather than a business partner.

This service provider mentality translates into work being requested with unrealistic expectations, impossible deadlines, which leave no time for creativity, and without strategic input from members of the creative team. One creative director I know once told me, “it’s not uncommon for people to drop a lump of ground beef on my desk, and ask me to make them a steak.”

When creative leaders explain the role of their teams to stakeholders, they must stress the value of bringing creatives into projects early as strategic partners. It’s ultimately the job of the creative to not only execute the ideas of product or business owners, but to improve upon ideas to make them audience-appropriate and as impactful as possible. This is an especially important message when you consider a previous survey we conducted at Wrike found 54% of creatives said a leading challenge is “non-creative professionals insisting on unsuitable ideas”.

I recommend an exercise our creative director at Wrike recently did with members of our marketing team. He gave everyone several pieces of paper and some markers. Then, he set a timer for two minutes and told the group to draw a car. When the time was up, we shared our drawings and saw some pretty impressive cars. Then, he reset the clock for one minute and asked us to draw a car again. We did the activity several more times until we were drawing cars for just 10 seconds.

The point of the activity was to illustrate what happens to creative as available time decreases. The quality fades and work becomes sloppy and less effective. Since then, our marketers have been more mindful of giving our creative team plenty of time to do great work.

Visibility is key for realistic expectations

If stakeholders in your organisation seem unaware of the pressure the creative team is under, it’s probably because they are. Visibility into workloads continues to be a challenge, especially with teams often located in different offices around the world. Sometimes people fire a request off to creative and assume there’s someone standing by ready to work on it immediately when in reality, the team is stretched to its capacity. There needs to be a clear process for requesting and prioritising projects so they can work together to create campaigns that are high impact, and delivered on time.

Collaborative work management software can standardise requests, ensuring all required information is supplied from the start, and provide a place where creatives can demonstrate their workload to stakeholders in real-time. It serves as a resource where creative teams can find everything they need to do their work, from the creative brief to photos and digital conversations pertaining to a task or project. A single workspace empowers not only creative teams but teams throughout an organisation, with the context and the content they need to do their very best work.

Technology is the secret to speedy creative delivery

The leading cause of project delays for creatives is “reviews and approvals weren’t completed on time.” This unfortunate truth underscores the need for a clearly defined approval process with tools that help expedite the process.

Swift approval cycles powered by software and automation are critical for avoiding common pains like version control challenges and imprecise language around change requests. They can also notify stakeholders when content is ready for a review or notify creatives when changes have been requested, ensuring the ball isn’t sitting in anyone’s court for too long.

Empowered creatives transform brands

High-quality visuals delivered through multiple channels is essential for any brand trying to grow and quickly work its way into the minds and hearts of consumers.

If the GI Joe dolls of yesteryear are any testament to the growth and staying power of brands that can deliver consistent, well-placed creative that truly taps into the imagination of their audience, then it’s worth maximising the power of creative teams by building a strong partnership between them and the rest of the organisation.

Econsultancy offers project management training