Digital creative tools — from Photoshop to Maya — have fundamentally changed the way advertising is made. The new area of opportunity lies in improving workflow — a circuitous process that doesn’t always move in a predictable direction.
We connected with Ray Velez, CTO of Razorfish, and Scott Morris, senior marketing director at Adobe for Creative Cloud and Creative Suite, to get their perspectives on how technology is going to impact creative workflow over the next year. (Note: Adobe is CMO.com's parent company.)
MacPhedran: Ray, how do you approach the creative workflow process with your clients?
Velez: Increasingly, our agency is leading creative efforts for clients, with our technology teams driving the physical software implementation. The first step is aligning with the skills and approval processes of our clients. By approval, it’s about driving innovative collaborative sessions and working towards agreement of creative directions. Oftentimes when using the term workflow, we immediately think about visual identity as the first step. However, gathering inputs and insights from the planning and strategy teams prior to creative concepting should be the true starting point.
MacPhedran: How do you see creative workflow evolving between client and agency over the next year?
Morris: In the past, digital agencies were brought into client projects by more traditional agencies to work specifically on the digital pieces of the campaign. Today, digital agencies are asked by their clients to take the lead on everything in the campaign. We expect this trend to continue, as clients ask not just for the creation of digital media, but for the analysis and optimization related to the performance of that media. We also expect that clients will also be sharing more of their creative assets with agencies and looking to have agencies leverage those assets across as many devices and screen sizes as possible.
Velez: We would like to see more traction towards the creation of “real-time” responses. One example of our work that required real-time creative was a SmartUSA initiative where a tweet in the morning resulted in a full-scale response in the afternoon. Similarly, in a recent campaign for Axe Anarchy, creative was introduced by the Axe community and ended up in a graphic novel. This means we need to develop a more responsive and agile approach to client approvals than just scheduled creative reviews. Easy-to-use tools that can facilitate conversations outside of scheduled meetings are critical.
Just as critical is the ability to enable workflow that drives conversations around dynamic data-driven creative. The ability to dynamically assemble content and experiences for both client approval and alignment, along with legal approval, thankfully requires us to move away from static files.
MacPhedran: Adobe, in particular, is making a lot of strides in this area. What new tools can we expect to see?
Morris: The file-sharing capabilities in Creative Cloud will be key in helping ease these workflow challenges between agencies and clients. Today, agencies can share files with clients through Creative Cloud without requiring the clients to have programs such as Photoshop or InDesign installed. In fact, the client doesn’t even need to be a Creative Cloud member. The ability to “see” into the file is something only Adobe Creative Cloud is offering, and it is a key differentiator from other file sharing services.
We just introduced the ability to upload files directly from the program they are created in, and set restrictions on the files to control who can access them. These files are viewable by your clients within a browser, regardless of whether the browser is on a computer, tablet or even a smartphone. Clients can turn layers of a file on and off to review different design options, comment on the files, and view internal data such as the fonts and colors used – all without having the desktop apps installed on their system. And if they do have the apps, they can download files for editing in the desktop app.
In the future, Creative Cloud will offer a visual history of files to allow a client to quickly review how a design has changed, with the option to go back to an earlier version. At Adobe, we are constantly looking at ways to help creatives and clients work together more easily by innovating right in the creative workflow itself.
MacPhedran: We still have a ways to go before we can lean on a single source for all tools. An agency might operate iteratively with a client using Basecamp, and another purely through a weekly status in a more formal presentation. What do you see as the major challenges remaining in workflow optimization?
Velez: I think the remaining challenges are specific to dynamic data-driven experiences and creative. Tools like Basecamp or the Atlassian Suite are great at sharing files and text documentation, but not at expressing dynamic data-driven components. For example, we need for tools that drive product recommendations to assemble dynamic text and visual identity permutations across 29,000 segments. That’s a real-world example from work we’ve done for Staples and it’s still a workflow challenge.