High quality creative content is crucial to digital marketing. It’s the fuel for marketing automation, digital advertising, and social media. Yet, despite the outsized role creative content plays, getting the c-suite interested in the work that goes into it is a challenge. Some leaders see the initial brief, and most see the outcome, but very few know what goes on in-between.
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes: prioritization of projects, balancing of design resources, back-and-forth emails, conflicting priorities, changes to design, edits to copy, feedback-chasing, and many other tasks. An annual industry-wide survey inMotionNow fields consistently shows creatives spend about 20 percent of their time on administrative tasks.
When creatives are busy with administrative tasks, they don’t have the space they need to focus on the fuel the marketing engine requires. Consequently, the work piles up and the pressure grows. Indeed, the volume of projects, velocity of deadlines, and variety of digital formats have remained on the top five challenges facing creatives for the last three years.
To alleviate the pressure, creative leaders request more budget or resources and are invariably met with resistance. The problem is two-fold: we know senior leaders don’t have visibility into the work required to produce quality creative – but creatives also struggle to demonstrate value in a language the business understands.
That’s why the approach Cherise Oleson, the senior creative director at Franklin Energy, took is so effective. She asked her executive team what metrics they thought were useful. Then she found a way to pull that data from the team’s project management system and model a creative scorecard.
We knew if we got their buy-in that they would be interested in seeing those metrics when we presented them. It’s really easy to understand and to digest information in this visual way.
The Six Creative Metrics the C-Suite Cares About
The scorecard is updated quarterly and contains six key metrics. These metrics graphically illustrate the status of the roughly 1,600 creative projects her team completes every year. Those six metrics follow below.
Metric 1: The Number Of Projects Currently In Progress
This metric is best displayed as a pie chart that shows both the number of open projects and the current status of the project. For example, a project could be pending kickoff, out for review or with a designer to complete and close. The number shows both the volume of work and the status which identifies possible bottlenecks.
Metric 2: The Total Number Of Projects Completed Tear-To-Date (YTD)
Here the team breaks out the total number of projects completed into one of three categories:
- those completed in the standard period of time
- those that were fast-tracked
- those that were requested to be rushed
Fast-tracked projects are quick changes to existing projects that don’t require a lot of design work. For example, re-sizing a graphic or swapping out logos on a banner are simple projects that can be turned around quickly.
Rushed projects are requests with an accelerated deadline. Here’s the important part: Cherise’s team determined the average or standard creative project takes 30 days to complete from start-to-finish. So, the decision to classify a project as “rushed” was data-driven.
Metric 3: The Projects With The Highest Rounds Of Reviews YTD
This is a top 10 list that no one in the company wants to appear on. It shows which projects required the most rounds of review. The service level agreement (SLA) the creative team has with stakeholders affords three rounds of review. As a benchmark, the 2020 In-House Creative Management Report found 83 percent of creative projects require five or fewer rounds of review.
How is this metric helpful for the leadership? Here’s a good example: one project on the list required an astonishing 28 rounds of review, which is far too many. That dominates the creative team’s time – at the expense of other stakeholders. The data isolates the issue – particularly if it’s a recurring issue with any one department or stakeholder – and the leadership can see it, triage it, and resolve it.
Metric 4: The Average Hands-On Design Time Projects Require
As the title suggests, this shows how much time – measured in days – that designers spend with creative projects on average. It’s a good number to have now, but it’s especially helpful to track over time. For example, when Franklin Energy compares this metric year-over-year, it can demonstrate that it has reduced the amount of hands-on design time required.
Metric 5: The Average Number Of Projects Per Team Member
This shows the total number of projects completed divided by the number of contributors on the creative team. Here again, the value really shows up in multi-year comparisons. Franklin Energy was able to show that the creative team is completing about the same number of projects – even as the hands-on design time has gone down.
Metric 6: The Average Time It Takes To Complete A Creative Project.
The last metric is the average time it takes to complete a project. This is the same metric that drives the breakout between standard, fast-tracked, and rushed projects. It then takes things a step further and compares the average time to complete each of those categories with the time these projects spent in review.
What this shows executives is much of the time a creative project takes to complete is dependent on the time stakeholders take up in review. This gets the leadership to emphasize the importance for the company to review projects promptly and keep things moving.
Building Trust And Credibility With Data
Most marketing leaders accept that marketing is dependent on creative. However, understanding what it takes to bring creative to life sometimes feels ethereal. A creative scorecard demystifies the hard work creatives pour into projects. In turn, that builds trust, credibility, and strengthens the relationship between creative and marketing – and that drives better business results.