Hot Takes

Stop Treating Creative Like A Short-Order Chef with Thomas Shields


Many marketing teams have evolved their strategy for the digital world with high-tempo campaign testing, product led-growth, and so on.

Yet, these same modern marketing teams approach creative in an outdated way, leaving campaign performance and revenue on the table.

It’s time for a better way to get creative. Learn how with Thomas Shields, Director of Product Marketing at Superside.

[Transcript] Stop Treating Creative Like A Short-Order Chef

Massimo Chieruzzi

I’m very happy to introduce to all of you, Thomas Shields, our next speaker. He is the Director of Product Marketing at Superside.

Thomas, welcome! There you go. I’ll share the slide and leave the stage to you.

Thomas Shields

Fantastic! Thank you. Hello everyone! I would like to invite everyone who is here today to take 10 minutes to be honest. I’ll start.

My name is Thomas Shields, and to be honest, I have been guilty of treating creative teams like a short-order chef. If anyone else is feeling moved to open up and face some of the sins of how we’ve worked with creative teams as marketers, please do so, the chat is open, and everyone is here for you. This is a safe space. 

Today we’ll be talking about this topic. To introduce myself, my name is Thomas Shields. I’m the Director of Product Marketing at a company called Superside.

Superside helps brands like Amazon, Meta, Salesforce, Webflow, and Strava get creative done in a new way. I’m not going to share my interesting fact. You’ll have to follow up with me on social media if you want to hear about the time I went on a date with the daughter of our current U.S. sitting President. Fun story, but you’ll find me on LinkedIn or Twitter for that one. 

My background is that I’ve spent 10 years in B2B SaaS marketing, mostly doing product marketing. I’ve had designers report to me, I’ve worked with large creative teams, internal creative teams, sometimes dysfunctionally if we’re being honest, and I’ve worked with many agencies and freelancers.

So I’ve got a lot of experience in this, and this is what I think about all day at Superside, working on the issue of the creative challenge.

So in today’s world, ‘Creative’ is more important than ever to deliver marketing performance. It is the tool, in my opinion.

Stop Treating Creative Like A Short-Order Chef With Thomas Shields

In fact, VaynerMedia, this year, they have started calling ‘creative’ the only variable, meaning that the algorithms and all the other things you could tweak in digital marketing have become so smart that the thing that you as a marketer or creative team have the most control over, is the quality, style, and message you’re sending through the creative. That’s the variable that you have to deliver performance.

So, in today’s world, it’s not just enough to deliver really high-quality creative work. The ‘Mad Men’ days have been doing great high-quality work, and that’s great!

Creative has been around, but what has changed in today’s world is not just the need for quality; it’s the need for speed, timeliness; and third, the scale has radically increased with the explosion of digital channels in housing teams, and creative teams.

An explosion of tools to give people more control which increases the demand bigger than ever and, as a result, the need to refresh ‘creative’ has increased in today’s noisy digital world where things are much more temporal. 

The data backs up the importance of ‘creative’, and you can see the impact of strong creative really at every kind of level of marketing performance there is.

You can see it at the revenue level; more companies with stronger creative have better revenue growth. Marketing teams that deliver highly creative campaigns outperform less creative campaigns.

I think a lot of these are somewhat intuitive. The last one was really interesting to me, and there are two studies from Ipsos and Google that back this data point up about digital advertising, that 70 to 75 percent of digital ad performance comes from creative.

I think this is most interesting because the digital advertising world is one that is so quantitative, and creative feels very qualitative, but even in this world where things are much more quantitative and clear, creative is just incredibly important for driving marketing performance.

So knowing this, it sort of boggles the mind that I’ve done this, maybe you’ve done this, which is treat creatives like short-order chefs. 

You can say otherwise, but we all do this where we all expect Michelin star results. We expect to be blown away by what we get back.

The reality is that so much volume is coming down the pipe, most creatives can’t keep up with the demand, and they can’t keep up with the speed at which it is required.

I’m guilty of not always giving ‘creatives’ the lead time that they need to do the best work; maybe you have too. As a result, folks end up like Lucy, here.

Stop Treating Creative Like A Short-Order Chef With Thomas Shields

Things are coming down the pipeline, tickets are coming down as fast as ever, and they’re doing whatever they can to manage those tickets.

Maybe eating a few pieces of candy along the way, like Lucy, throwing a few down your shirt, etc. Doing whatever you can to get by, and what happens is that creatives become less strategic; they become more ‘order-takers.’

The quality of creative goes down in this situation, and it’s something that we’ve accepted a lot of times as the status quo is: “This is just how it is” I think to change this, I want to introduce this two by two to help us think about how we can solve this problem. 

So what we really need here is a galaxy of solutions. Bear with me on that pun. Let’s walk through what those are briefly. So, there are more strategic solutions to solving creative challenges, more tactical, there’s in-house, and there’s outsourcing.

Starting with your internal creative team, which is a critical piece of the pie. Your creative teams should be doing mostly strategic work. If they’re not, you need to look for solutions. 

You can optimize your internal creative teams. You can give them ticketing tools and other things. Those are tweaks that are important to do, but ultimately, the other way you could solve the problem is by trying to hire.

However, we know hiring in today’s world is very hard, and we also know that you’ll probably never be able to hire for all of your needs. 

So pros and cons for each one: We know that internal teams get the brand, they get the strategy, and they understand what’s going on, so we need to let them do that work.

Second, in-house tools, self-service tools, getting digital asset management tools, putting in templates for PowerPoints, one-pagers, digital advertising, or even video.

This is great; folks should definitely do this! What we’ve seen is that this isn’t necessarily a game changer in solving the problems; it’s a nice step that helps take some of the tactical work off your internal team’s plate. 

So, you also need to look at outsourcing. it’s really a must for modern marketing creative teams, and there are two typical solutions.

The first one is creative agencies. They are set up to do more strategic work, which is the kind of work that they’re built around; that’s what’s most valuable to their business.

They can do great work and do it at scale. They are experts at video agencies, branding agencies, and web design agencies, and if you don’t have that expertise, or you need some help there, or you need some scale, they can often do that.

We know it can be hard working with them. They can be inflexible, they can be expensive, rarely will they do everything you need, and as I mentioned before, they want to do strategic work; that’s what their business is set up to do.

So, that usually comes at the expense of your internal creative team. The business model is not set up for them to be good partners with your internal team. 

The other area that you outsource to is freelancers. The explosion of freelancer networks really speaks to the challenges that agencies have in serving the needs here.

Freelancers can be great; they can be really fast and flexible; sometimes they are excellent at producing work at low cost, they can be really affordable and save you budget, but they’re not a fantasy either.

They don’t scale. If you want more stuff done, you need to find another freelancer because more overhead and more challenges of time finding someone, getting them set up, managing them, etc.

They are inherently unreliable, and by that, I don’t mean they’re bad, but simply that someone could get sick, someone may have to take on work from another client or find a full-time job, and so it can be hard to know with confidence that they’ll be available in the future.

Lastly, sometimes they will struggle to support more strategic work, which could be okay, but they’re not a great solution for that. 

So, the problem with the current world is that outsourcing solutions leave you with a lot of vendors on your budget, each requiring different management, passing on a lot of this overhead to you.

From creative agencies to freelancers, they each have challenges of being expensive, slow, and inflexible on the creative side, or they might be unreliable, time-consuming to deal with,  and may lack the scale or reliability.

This is what we’ve been stuck with in terms of trying to solve this creative solution from an outsourcing standpoint and this is really why Superside was created.

We started in 2018 and have been working with hundreds of brands to help them with a different model of outsourcing, and we call this model Creative-as-a-Service. Creative as a Service is something that is Superside’s pioneer.

There are a number of other creative subscriptions or design subscriptions that are also in the market, so we’re not the only ones out there. 

What is Creative-as-a-service? It’s a new model for creative and design outsourcing that really takes the best of the agency and freelancer models without having the hassle that each one has.

Creative-as-a-Service will deliver high-quality creative design faster, more reliably, and at the scale that you need to get that marketing performance that we’ve been talking about in this digital-first, noisy world that’s hard to compete in.

CaaS is technology-enabled. It’s a subscription similar to SaaS, and it will deliver compelling creative on demand. So, it’s really fast and within a clear, defined budget.

You have total control and transparency around what you’re getting for what you pay, and it can do it at a scale with a breadth of skills unparalleled by agencies or freelancers.

How does that work? How do you get all these benefits from CaaS? Sounds great, right? So, what CaaS does is combine three key elements in a unique way to provide this new solution.

First, it provides remote access to remote creative talent, and unlike a freelancer network, this is a fully managed experience, so you’re not going into a marketplace; you’re going in and working with a select group of creatives, and it’s a managed experience.

At Superside, we give you a creative project manager and a creative director, who are your points of contact.

You may have 30 people working on a project and you don’t want to deal with 30 different designers which is why you have your points of contact to ensure things go smoothly.

This way, the project is well managed, the creative quality is well managed, it’s on brand, etc. So that’s how we do it. I think we have 700 people working for us at Superside, doing this kind of work.

The second piece that defines CaaS is that it’s technology-enabled. You go to an online platform that is used for briefing in projects, reviewing, and communicating on creative projects that are in motion while connecting with your points of contact at the Creative-as-a-service company.

It simplifies the experience. It enables things to always work. At Superside, we cover all 24 hours. We will have people working in your time zone and so you can brief in work at any time, and we’ll get started.

We’ll also be able to work while you’re sleeping, so that’s a cool part of our particular model. So you got the people, the remote, all connected to the technology to make things work really smoothly for the end user. 

Lastly, you have this subscription model. So the subscription model makes CaaS an ongoing solution. It’s not just for one project; it’s something that you would always want on your books. It’s always available, and because you can use the subscription across different types of projects, from video to digital ads, to brand, you can use it in different ways to fill in gaps.

It covers both the tactical production work and the strategic creative work that you might need to outsource. Since CaaS are a little less built around just doing strategic work, we end up being a better partner to your internal teams.

the subscription model is kind of what enables this, so similar to your SAS tools, the ongoing subscription.

This is always available in the case of Superside; you get hours you can use however you want on video, whatever kind of different agency service or production services you need. If you don’t use them, they just roll over to the next month.

So exactly what you’re getting and have this flexibility to treat a company like Superside as an all-in-one or one-Stop shop for creative resources.

Lastly, CaaS is flexible. They are not rigid like agencies. A CaaS could replace all of your agencies or freelancers, or it could replace some, and because we work well with internal creative teams, we work just as well with agencies or freelancers.

So, if you have a great branding agency and you’re going through a rebrand, but they don’t want to do all the execution work, a CaaS solution might be something you want to look at. 

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Hot Takes Live


Catch the replay of Hot Takes Live, where 30 of the top SaaS leaders across Marketing, Sales, and RevOps revealed some of their most unpopular opinions about their niche.

These leaders shared what lessons they learned and how they disrupted their industry by going against the grain (and achieved better results in the process).