June 21st saw the first Creative Operations Panel in the UK, as part of the Henry Stewart DAM Europe 2017 Conference, and it recognises the growing recognition of creative operations for organisations who need to produce and manage large volumes of content.

Clair Carter Gin chaired the panel. Clair is Creative Operations consultant based in New York, as ex VP of Michael Kors Content, and a seasoned presented of the New York event which is now in its fourth year.

The panel was made up of Richard Holley from GEOX, Rui Silva from Farfetch and Anna Waldock-Evans from ITV. All were very generous in sharing their experiences in this field, to provide the room with practical insights.

These are my session highlights

Why do we need creative operations?

  • Organisations need to produce more assets that are more effective.
  • They need to produce increasing volumes with a faster turnaround time,
  • They need to improve production cost efficiencies
  • Production teams are too focused on creating and don’t have the time to think about the process of their role of content in the organisation in line with the brand strategy

‘Content is the new product’

This is my favourite quote from the day, because the concept of this is so overlooked. From a truly digital retailer point of view, content is the new product. In the not too distant past, content was seen as just a service, but for those organisations who are embracing this content, it is regarded as a major driver of the user experience.

Ensuring customers had access to best-in-class product content was an essential part of both Geox’s and Farfetch’s growth strategy, and they acknowledged that content strategy was directly linked to the brand strategy.

In practice, the content creation and production process has a horizontal impact across the business, due to its complexity, and both Geox and Farfetch credited their success in getting senior leadership support and accountability in place.

Further advice was to make the demands of the creative process more widely known around the business. This means making the shift from reacting and providing content in a less controlled and efficient manner, to driving it from the front.

‘Initially you have to invest’

To scope and build the right content plan, and get the correct approach to support your product range, the fact is you have to start by investing in content. However, to manage budgets and performance over the longer term, you then need to connect different data point to the content you are creating, then you can refine it.

This of course means building in lots of content testing around the process to enable the teams to tap into those learnings further down the line.

‘The retailers who are investing in this now will have a huge advantage on you in the future’

Both of these retailers utilised a range of tools and technology to support their content production process, including the following:

  • DAM
  • Automated machine learning systems
  • Production management systems
  • Digital automation

They recommend that retailers embarking on this bring technology into the strategic discussions around content, key to being able to scale and deliver the efficiencies that will keep the budgets in control.

People, Process, Technology

Finally, the panel agreed that like many other things, the Creative Operations Process is built on the combination of People, Process and Technology.

The key take out here is the relative immaturity of the Creative Operations function. There is still a long way to go to optimise the digital product experience in retail. Many retailers are also dealing with the legacy of print or advertising-based content and trying to retro-fit that into a digital content strategy that can achieve scale and cost efficiency:

People

Take time to understand the new skill-sets that are needed then focus on getting the right people and team structures in place, and have a plan to keep developing their skills.

Process

The content production process is a complex one and often works horizontally across the organisation. Firstly, this needs to be designed (and to be able to be managed), then you can bring in a focus on each element of the workflow, understand what you are doing and why, and build continuous improvement programmes to create lean and efficient production model

Technology

Technology is your friend, be open to where it can support you and build it into your content strategy. Many tools and systems will need to integrate into pre-existing elements of the digital workflow, so ensure that you are properly scoping out requirements to ensure you get the most from your new investment, and strengthen rather than compromise the digital workflow