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By Leah Montebello
Discussing the rise of in-house and remote working, and how this is reshaping the world of creative production.
“The real change is building slightly more complex creative operations at an organisational level from a channel point of view. So finding the method, whether it is outsourcing or in housing or freelance or UGC: it is building those sets of infrastructures” – Nick Gubbins, CEO & Co-founder at Atellio
Henry Stewart’s Festival of Creative Ops Forum 2021 hosted the session ‘Hot House, In-House Or No House?’. The session was chaired by James Sanderson, Creative Operations Director and Practice Lead at ICP, where he and the panel explored the landscape of creative production over the past 12 months.
To do this, he chatted with Jiva Smith (Senior Director, Creative Operations at Peacock at NBCUniversal Media, LLC), Nick Gubbins (CEO & Co-founder at Atellio), Todd Challe (VP, Creative Production and Operations at Coach) and Brian Gavin (President at globaledit)
What underpinned this conversation is that Creative Operations now has more choices than ever before, from both an employee and consumer perspective.
Future WFH trends
One of very few benefits bestowed by the past 12 months is that we now are all able to break free of traditional ways of working. This has caused a huge shift in the way creative operations are conducted, as well as the structures of creative organizations and workflows.
A quick survey of the audience attending the online session was asked how often they predicted they would be going back into the office in a year’s time, the results were revealing.
A surprising 29% of people said they would not go back into the office at all, whilst a further 26% said it would be two days a week. Only 3% said they would be going in five days a week, and the remaining 42% were on various other combinations of WFH patterns.
As Sanderson said, “This heralds in what I think of as a new era. We just spent the last 18 months showing we can do our work not under one roof, but distributed across the globe. I think this is an inflection point”.
The two main areas of change that the panel examined were:
In light of this, the consensus was that creative operations can now be reinvented; there is an expanded opportunity to access different combinations of resources from the worldwide economy to create virtual global teams.
There is also the ability to be super-efficient by using the best people, tools and methods, unrestrained by offices and vendors. Indeed, this ‘Distributed’ expertise can unlock the contributions of new talent, additional resources and greater efficiency. This is the new frontier.
However, this is perhaps too idealistic. The panel discussion examined, in some detail, the key trends and how their respective companies have reacted.
The rising demand of content
The last year has shown an explosion of online content. Not only do brands need more content to appease their consumers, but the virtual world has meant more needs to be made at a faster rate.
Panel chairman, James Sanderson, posed the question to the panel of whether this demand will continue to grow, or whether it will plateau.
Brian Gavin, President at globaledit, believes that the demand will plateau. As a champion of cloud-based solutions related to Digital Asset Management and Workflow Automation, he said that the demand will naturally slow again, and the dust will eventually settle. He also believes that mass personalisation has and will continue to play a major role in this demand.
More generally, his vision to solve the challenges in Creative Production is supported through the alignment of people, process and technology. He believes that producing high quality content at scale relies on having innovative, easy to implement technology that has a low barrier to entry.
In contrast, Todd Challe, VP, Creative Production and Operations at Coach, said that the demand will not plateau and will continue to rise, but agrees that technology and the way content is made will change. He said, “There is a limited number of resources in terms of funding and being able to do the actual work, so there will be more User Generated Content (UGC) and lots of new ways to work outside of the norm”.
Echoing these points, Jiva Smith, Senior Director, Creative Operations at streaming service Peacock created by NBCUniversal Media, said that delivery models are evolving to meet these shifts. He urged, “You have to look at offshoring and automating tech. I work for a Fortune 20 company and we even had to get lean!”.
This emphasises the huge challenge for companies to adapt to not only an increase in demand, but a completely new way of working.
The benefit, or lack of it, of WFH for in-house agencies
Sanderson led the discussion towards the rise of in-housing, as well as a more “hybrid” approach taken by companies.
The common benefit of in-house teams is that they are under the same roof as the brand. It’s well documented that this proximity leads to better working relationships and a shared vision for the brand.
On this, he pointed out the paradox of working from home, where the lack of benefit that may be seen when teams aren’t actually in-person. He posed the question of whether in-house teams lose their key benefit of when teams are working alongside each other.
Smith is keen to point out that collaboration doesn’t necessarily need to mean physical, and he said there has been “a true embrace of the Cloud”.
Prior to the pandemic, he said creatives were reluctant to work remotely, and the ability to edit content in a high quality way from our homes would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
“I think even if it existed, I don’t know whether big businesses would have embraced it. The silver lining from Covid was understanding how dynamic things could be from anywhere”, he said. Gavin also comments how “creative folk are finally seeing the benefit of technology!”.
Building on this point, Nick Gubbins, CEO & Co-founder at Atellio, commented that “in-housing is not about being in the same place or location, but it’s about what tribe you are part of. It is which brand are they putting your personal flag on”.
Like Smith, he thinks that the physical element is not as important as the cultural synergy that can be found when a company decides to in-house their production.
The role of technology
Gubbins frames tech as “the great enabler”. “It is not replacing what would otherwise be happening in person, but it is building out the new pathways to help teams work together in a distributed and remote fashion”, he emphasised.
Atellio is a creative production management platform powering the creative operations of the world’s leading brands and agencies. Gubbins used to be a software engineer, with a passion for the creative industries. He sees that technology is fundamental in helping teams work more seamlessly.
Nonetheless, Challe thinks that if remote work is going to function, there must be more unity. “Collaboration doesn’t work if half the team are at home and the other half are in the office”, he said. On this, he said that teams need to work out a rhythm where a hybrid model actually works, and we are really bringing out all the benefits.
The panel was optimistic about the future and the common theme is that brands will need to continue innovating, pandemic or not.
The barrier to entry with technology is lowering, and this means there is no excuse not to improve and innovate.
Gubbins summed up by saying, “The real change is building slightly more complex creative operations at an organisational level from a channel point of view. So finding the method, whether it is outsourcing or in housing or freelance or UGC: it is building those sets of infrastructures”.