Marketers 'haemorrhaging money' over 'creative by committee' culture

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 20 July 2017
Lost in translation.

Creative localisation is being severely hamstrung by multinational bureaucracy, a lack of trust and the inability to efficiently manage a fragmented web of agency partners, a global study of marketers has found.

This is leading to large amount of dissatisfaction from marketers over their ability to customise global creative for local markets in a timely and efficient manner.

The problem is being exacerbated by insufficient technology, with only 20% of respondents using online approval and proofing systems.

It's also leading to tension between marketers and agency partners; almost two-thirds rate their agency partners are 'below satisfactory' and only 30% believe agency partners or in-house agency teams are doing well in supporting local executions.


The need to localise global creative is becoming increasingly important for marketers. Research shows that 50% of consumers won't consider creative that hasn't been localised to take into account language and local cultural norms.

“One of the biggest factors holding up the localisation and adaptability process is this 'creative by committee' mindset that everyone seems to have taken on where we are all going to go back and forth over one colour change,” CMO Council senior vice president of marketing Liz Miller tells AdNews.

“It is as much at platform issue as it is a cultural issue. We need to adopt a cultural stance of 'our customer is not going to wait for localisation'. With the world wide web being instant, customers in Australia know that something new has launched because the internet doesn't say, 'we get this is a piece of North American creative, let's not show it to people in Australia'.

“We can't wait 30 days to roll out localisation because of a month-long approval process between the region and the product owner and the marketing owner and the agency going around in these circles. The only person who is left out of that process is the customer.”

A major inefficiency of current practice is that the creative process and approval process often take place on two separate platforms.

This means that an agency who needs to iterate a piece of creative is often sidelined from discussions taking place between client marketing stakeholders until the end of their internal collaboration process.

“Marketers need to say, 'yes, we empower our local agency to iterate and localise quickly. We then also need to be able to go in and quickly approve and collaborate. It's stunning in this day and age that those two things often happen on two different platforms.”


Compounding the problem is that marketers often have to manage a complex web of agency partners. The CMO Council study found that only 13% of marketers said they have a single agency partner that handles all brand content across physical and digital touch points and 42% says that it's a “very complex web” of creative partners and contractors.

Nearly a third (29%) work with multiple creative teams across multiple regions, creating further friction in the system.

“We're no longer living in a world of where we've got to centralise all of our creative asset development through either one agency or a handful of them,” Miller says. “We're brining on so many different agency partners that we don't necessarily know who's got the material that needs to be localised.

“Not only does the chance for brand fragmentation exponentially explode, the timing that is required to quickly localise and deploy gets wider and wider. There's a creative gap between something at a centralised global level and our how quickly and rapidly we are able to adapt messages for the local market."

The answer, argues Miller, isn't to roll back the number of agency partners, but provide the right tools or a technology platform that allow marketers to regain control of the whole process, particularly around the adaptation and where different elements of the project are.

“Marketers, far too often, look at the agency after the fact and then say 'why didn't x, y, x happen? Or we didn't like this and now everything is up for review'. Instead we need to set up those tools that help us monitor the success," Miller adds. 

“It's our brand and our responsibility to set up that infrastructure and opportunity for transparency. It also allows us to better ask questions of our agency partner.”

But is change realistic considering the way many multinationals are structured and often bogged down by process and bureaucracy?

Miller says if the problem is framed as a 'technology issue', she's not hopeful due to a range of other tech issues that are probably higher up a CTO's agenda.

“I think if you start to look at it as a business overhead and dollars and cents perspective then businesses will be far more motivated to take care of this localisation and iteration process," she says. Then you can start to look at the efficiencies gained from a single platform that manages creative iteration, content management to collaboration tools built into a single pane of glass.

“Marketers are haemorrhaging money because we keep going back to the agency and saying, 'let me have one more iteration', and the agency will charge every time. If we look at streamlining this process, the brand is going to save money.”


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