Assessing Your Creative Review and Approval Process
All marketing organizations have a review and approval process of some sort, with approaches ranging from informal and ad-hoc to formalized and rigid. Many rely on email for gathering feedback and approvals which leads to unclear feedback and endless email chains - ultimately resulting in more iterations and longer review cycles.
Leading companies actively manage their creative processes in order to reap benefits and optimize asset production. Through online collaboration and proofing, automating tracking and workflows, and streamlining feedback, teams can produce more assets more quickly. This guide has been produced to help you understand the end-end process(es) you currently have in place and isolate where room for improvement may exist.
Review and Approval solutions have three broad sets of functionality:
● Online proofing
● Workflow management
● Metrics and reporting Section
Section 1: Getting Organized
While there are often multiple review and approval (R&A) processes in place within a single company, most workflows fall into one of three main categories. The first step is to determine which of the categories your organization most commonly operates in.
The three main R&A categories (Table 1) are:
● Routine, everyday (quick turnaround, high volume, few people involved)
● Big, complex (high profile, long timeframes, many people involved)
● High-risk (need regulatory, legal reviews, or executive involvement)
(Additionally, we know there are out-of-process emergencies, but let’s focus on everyday work.)
In order to get organized, let’s first identify examples of projects within your organization that fall into each category — using concrete examples helps to avoid working with hypotheticals.
Section 2: Start at the Beginning
R&A processes logically start when an asset is ready for review and feedback. The hope is that the asset can quickly move through this phase and reach approval as efficiency as possible. Start by capturing information about the commencement of the creative projects in your company. Table 2 summarizes the processes for fictionalized company, using these questions as guidelines.
● How are projects initiated? — Are creative briefs used for everything? Is there a project management system in place? What is automated (driven by a system) vs manual (communicated in meetings or one-on-one).
● Where are assets created? — Are creative assets produced in-house, or through external agencies? What software authoring tools, such as Photoshop, a video studio, or a web-based CMS (content management system).
● What starts the review process? — Are there notifications? Emails? Are files pushed to shared folders (like Dropbox) or forums?
Section 3: Look to the End
The ultimate purpose of the R&A process is to generate approved creative assets for use. Thus, it’s important to understand what’s required in terms of approval and delivery. Table 3 looks at the ways in which assets are stored.
● Where do approved assets get stored? — A DAM (Digital Asset Management) system, a web CMS, designated networked storage, other?
● What information is stored with the assets? — Record of changes and approvals? file meta-information?
● Who gets notified of approvals? — Are there project or traffic managers that are kept informed? Are there project management systems that need to be updated?
Section 4: Fill in the middle
Review processes are usually iterative, and phased (Figure 1):
● Iterative, in that feedback is given on an initial version, and a revised version incorporating needed changes is sent out for approval;
● Phased, meaning the reviewers and approvers change as the project advances. For example, initial feedback might come from creative peers, and circulated to client groups only after approval from the Art Director.
It’s also useful to delineate who gives feedback and who can actually approve an asset.
Using Figure 1, consider for your needs:
● Who gives initial feedback? — Peers, managers?
● Whose approval is needed before sending outside the team?
● What level of feedback do clients give? — Is it just a yes/no response or more extensive?
● What internal clients are involved? — Brand and product teams? e-commerce teams? Country or regional managers? Legal teams?
● Who can ultimately say ‘yes’? Who can only say ‘no'?
Focus first on which roles or departments need to be involved, rather than listing individuals. (So, “Legal” is involved, not “Lisa in Legal, Rob in Regulator”.) Table 3 shows a populatedsample table.
Section 5: Estimate Scale
By determining realistic scales and benchmark values, an organization can learn whether current operations are improving or declining, and what room for improvement may exist.
● How many assets can be delivered per week? Per month?
● What is the breakdown between different approval processes?
● How many individuals play a role?
● How many initiate a review or comment or approve?
Section 6: Review Metrics
Finally, determine if your organization currently measures metrics on the production process. If your company currently has no means to track asset production metrics or statistics, don’t fret. In capturing and measuring metrics, an organization can benchmark historical production, highlight trends and identify room for improvement. The key units when getting started with metrics include reporting on:
● Timeliness — How many assets meet their due dates? How long until feedback was received?
● Compliance — Is the asset on-spec? Did all approvers actually accept the final asset?
● Delays — When was the final iteration ready? Did the production process bottleneck?