May 31, 2012

Outsourcing Digital Production: 3 Keys to a Smooth Transition

The benefits of digital production outsourcing are so compelling – including reduced costs, greater brand consistency and shorter time to market – that businesses today can’t afford to ignore them.

But, we all get used to a certain way of doing things, even if our processes are less efficient and more expensive than necessary. Fortunately, transition to outsourcing can be smooth and easy by collaborating with an experienced digital production partner. Here are three keys to success:

An experienced production partner can conduct a digital assessment to find the right outsourcing fit for your production needs. Examples include:

The benefits of digital production outsourcing are so compelling – including reduced costs, greater brand consistency and shorter time to market – that businesses today can’t afford to ignore them.

But, we all get used to a certain way of doing things, even if our processes are less efficient and more expensive than necessary. Fortunately, transition to outsourcing can be smooth and easy by collaborating with an experienced digital production partner. Here are three keys to success:

1. Find the right fit

An experienced production partner can conduct a digital assessment to find the right outsourcing fit for your production needs. Examples include:

  • Individual project: Specific deliverables based on a fixed fee or time and materials.
  • Dedicated production team: A focused team executing your creative strategies.
  • Global solution: A customized solution that brings together the right skills and production hubs to consolidate your production globally.

2. Make change easy

An effective production partner will work with you and/or your creative agency to streamline the changeover to outsourcing:

  • Plan: Collect materials, criteria and assets, and then develop a transitional plan that defines detailed steps, deadlines and deliverables. Hold handoff meetings or shadow agency teams as appropriate.
  • Assess: Create sample work for evaluation or work in parallel as work transfers from the creative agency to the production partner.
  • Produce: Begin production of live deliverables, consulting with you and your agency as necessary.

3. Focus on quality and communication

A digital production outsourcing partner should perform ongoing quality checks, including content verification and creative reviews. Continuous quality management should be the rule, ensuring timeliness and identifying opportunities for improvement. Your outsourcing partner should make it easy to communicate and collaborate, and provide visibility along every production step.

It can be hard at first to change how you work. But if you have the right partner and transition process in place, the benefits of outsourcing are easily within reach.

  • Individual project: Specific deliverables based on a fixed fee or time and materials.
  • Dedicated production team: A focused team executing your creative strategies.
  • Global solution: A customized solution that brings together the right skills and production hubs to consolidate your production globally.
May 21, 2012

Agencies vs.Tech Companies

A few months ago we commented on the blurring of marketing responsibilities, especially those of the CMO and the CIO. We discussed the urgency for a collaborative effort between these two individuals considering today’s ever-changing media landscape. No longer can great creative stand alone; today’s market defines an effective campaign as one that is not only strategically and creatively executed, but also measurable, targetable, and analytical.

As the number media platforms increases, so does the difficulty to effectively market and analyze and abundance of customer data generated from such campaigns. The maintenance of data has become increasingly overwhelming for big global marketers and over the past few years, consulting firms such as Accenture have designed IT solutions to relieve marketer’s stress and help manage the information. In other words, these IT companies have tread on agency turf.

The Ad Age article, Agencies Going After Accenture, Deloitte ITmentions, “Agencies, which had to use those tools, are now responding by investing as much as $10 million to build out IT of their own.” Creating the solutions internally ensures the technology will be used in the correct way, a way only a marketer, not a tech company would know. The same could be applicable to production solutions. Deliver was created to offer a digital production solution to WPP clients. Deliver offers the technical knowledge and the creative marketing chops necessary to produce high-quality digital assists. When it comes to the marketing space, while collaboration is important, it is imperative to have a deep understanding of the space in which the technology resides.

May 7, 2012

The Top 3 Digital Production Outsourcing Fears – and How to Overcome Them

Outsourcing is spreading across the digital production landscape, and it has proved to be a real boon for marketing organizations. You’ve thought about taking the plunge, but change brings uncertainty. Will it be complicated to make the switch? Will the production and creative teams play nice? Will the quality suffer?  Let’s take a look at three of the biggest outsourcing worries and see how working with the right production partner can help you overcome them.

1. Lack of control

Work that’s out of sight can feel out of your hands. But an offshore team custom-trained to your specifications can put you in even greater control of production. You can establish processes and clearly define roles from the beginning, which will go a long way toward managing expectations.

Your outsourced partner should be very experienced working with creative agencies and know how to cultivate those relationships. With a production manager continuously checking quality and a production team in the same time zone, work should proceed seamlessly.

Want an even higher level of comfort? Visit the production hub and meet the real people producing your work.

2. Language and culture differences

These days business truly is global, and there are fewer cultural differences now than ever. However, there’s still a chance things could get lost in translation. The right production outsourcing partner will speak your language – all team members as well as the production manager – so it’s easy for on-site and offshore teams to collaborate. A good production partner will also provide a collaborative work platform to facilitate communication and workflow to keep projects on track.

3. Quality and process concerns

Here are some best practices to set these worries to rest:

  • Review samples of projects completed for other clients. Nothing speaks louder than excellent work.
  • Agree on roles and responsibilities up front between the production partner and creative agency.
  • Ensure there’s a clearly defined transition process in place. See 3 keys to outsourcing digital production for pointers.

Don’t let fear of the unfamiliar keep you from gaining all the advantages of outsourcing your digital production. A little time and experience is all that’s needed to turn your qualms into confidence.

Apr 5, 2012

Marketers to Demand Cost Reductions, ANA Survey Confirms

Who caught the results from the new ANA Survey as reported in Ad Age this week? In 2012, 52% of marketers will ask their agencies to reduce internal costs. Moreover, 84% of marketers report being under pressure to reduce costs and control spending, up from 77% just one year ago. Agency respondents proposed several short-term cost reductions – from cutting professional development costs to over-utilizing local freelancers – that won’t do much for their long-term competitive position. However, one solution is resoundingly absent from the article; embracing the best practice of digital production offshoring.

More and more companies are exploring the idea of Decoupling. In fact, this solution was passionately discussed at the 4A’s Transformation Conference last week in a panel about evolving agency models. When advertisers decouple production from creative and offshore the production to specialists in low-cost countries they discover a wealth of benefits. This model allows creative agencies to focus on what they love to do, which is to set creative strategy and generate creative ideas, while the production partner focuses on the execution of those great ideas in digital media. Most importantly, when marketers embrace this model, they reduce digital production costs by 20-50%.

When we created Deliver as WPP’s digital production agency, we built it with an eye on minimizing risk. Therefore, our production solution contains the following characteristics:

  • 1,300 experts in 10 countries means that we have the capabilities to meet any need at virtually any capacity
  • Market leading creative agencies within the world’s largest marketing communications company house the production hubs so marketers can be confident about the quality of our talent
  • Engagement manger oversight with collaborative technology ensures simplicity as we seamlessly integrate with creative teams

Why look at short-term cost reductions that are likely to cause long-term damage? Why take the risk of sacrificing quality, flexibility, or creativity? The pressure to reduce costs is real and it is only going to intensify. It is time for marketers to embrace the 21st Century and the benefits brought by Globalization. A trusted pioneer at the vanguard of this global movement, like Deliver, can show you how.

Ben Rolly is VP, Business Development for Deliver North America. You can contact him at

Mar 20, 2012

The Hidden Cost of Training

Ben Rolly is VP, Business Development North America for Deliver.

As digital production offshoring becomes more prevalent in the United States, we need to ask what is driving this rapidly accelerating trend.  Some might say it is the growing supply of quality talent in emerging economies.  Others may point to the adoption of collaborative technology that seamlessly connects offshore production experts with onshore creative teams and project managers.   While both of these are contributing factors, we believe that the primary driver of digital production offshoring is that marketers are focused on reducing costs.

We all understand that cost savings begin with cost-effective staff.  However, we may fail to realize that the savings don’t end there.  Additional cost savings can be wrung from additional efficiencies – in team and activity consolidation, standard and optimized processes, templates, and automation.  Furthermore, a consolidated digital production solution can eliminate costs that aren’t usually top of mind.  One such example is the cost of training.

Training is important.  After all, new emerging technologies appear almost daily.  New digital channels constantly displace existing channels driving the ever expanding digital universe.   Consumers engage with this universe on increasingly varied platforms and devices, which require advertisers to make their experiences ubiquitous.  Marketers that want to capitalize on the accelerating digital universe need trained resources, and the rate of change means that training will be a necessary recurring cost.

That leads to the million dollar question.  If I were to ask how much your marketing organization invests in training resources – both directly and indirectly – would you say “too much”, “too little”, or “just the right amount”?

If your answer is “too much”, then you should consider the benefits of consolidating your digital production with an offshore specialist like Deliver.  When you decouple production to Deliver you acquire access to our pool of 1,300 production and technical experts, which negates the need to train.  In the case of proprietary systems where training is necessary, a retained team in a cost-effective country will still yield savings.

If your answer is “too little”, then you should consider the benefits of consolidating your digital production with an offshore specialist like Deliver.  The digital universe is commanding a greater proportion of consumer attention than ever.  Marketers ignore new platforms, technologies and devices at their own peril.  When you decouple production to Deliver you gain economies of scale from our global network and your underinvestment in training ceases to be an issue.

If your answer is “just the right amount”, then you should consider the benefits of consolidating your digital production with an offshore specialist like Deliver.  Your competitors are exploring ways to reduce costs in their marketing organizations.  Those that succeed in reducing production and training costs can channel those savings into more creative, more media and more initiatives.  In other words, they gain a competitive advantage.  The decision to continue “business as usual” in defiance of a competitor’s embrace of globalization doesn’t make business sense.

Oh, and by the way, that million dollar question … was a trick question.   Every marketer can benefit from decoupling and offshoring digital production.  Let us show you how.

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Feb 8, 2012

Successful Partnerships Deliver Savings and Production Excellence

You have all heard our team talk about digital production, and the benefits clients can realize when they harness the power of a global, cost-effective production solution.  As we begin 2012, I wanted to share one of our best case studies of last year. As you read the story below, I believe you will see the value in Deliver’s process and perhaps even how you and your clients can benefit from a similar strategy.

The Partnership

Deliver and our client, a leading global consumer packaged goods firm, together with their two digital creative agencies, came together to consolidate our client’s digital production globally. The goal was cost-savings; savings that could be reinvested back into the WPP Team budget to fund new marketing initiatives, such as mobile applications and social media.

Structuring the Perfect Relationship:

As a multinational, multi-product company, our client needed a production solution that could meet both their global marketing needs as well service local markets for web site development, online advertising, e-mail campaigns, and mobile applications.

The Deliver team put place a proven method to leverage cost-effective staff, consolidate team activity, standardize processes, leverage templates and automation and roll-out a global delivery model to ensure quality delivery and continual optimization.

Deliver New York engagement managers established and educated dedicated production teams in Bogota and Dhaka. Deliver employed three specific engagement models to efficiently service the client, as well as our client’s digital agencies:

  • Dedicated Agency Team – responsible for executing the digital agencies’ creative vision
  • Local Market Teams – responsible for local marketing program execution based on creative provided by agency partners
  • Global Production Team – responsible for Deliver localization of our clients’ global web property. The digital creative agency develops master materials and Deliver works with their offices, with the help of a translation partner and local media agencies, to adjust master creative to meet local market requirements.

The Results:

With hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, our client was able to expand their digital reach in 2011. Deliver produced over 1,000 banners, launched over 50 websites, and developed iPad applications and Facebook game localizations in 30 markets.

Steve Forcione who works as the WPP Managing Partner for this account stated, “The successful partnership between our client’s creative agencies and Deliver proves that leveraging a global production solution can be easily and seamlessly integrated into any client’s digital program.”

I hope that 2012 will bring forth new collaborative relationships between Deliver, your agency, and clients that produce these same positive results for all of us. I’d be happy to speak to you at your convenience regarding our process and how Deliver can save your clients 20-40% on your digital production costs while opening up new creative and strategic opportunities.

Dec 15, 2011

Ad Outlook:Half-Full or Half-Empty?

Various reports about the overall advertising outlook suggest that we are in a “good news, bad news” situation. On the one hand, overall advertising spend in the U.S. is projected to decline in the third quarter, according to our WPP colleagues at Kantar Media. Details are available here. Another survey suggests that the optimism of ad executives is at record lows. An overall weak economy will do that.

On the other hand, the outlook for digital marketing is much brighter. Digital and especially mobile media spend continues to build ad budget confidence.

Overall budget shrinkage is primarily driven by reductions in print and TV, while digital marketing budgets continue to expand. Some industry analysts have cited these trends as evidence of two separate advertising markets – digital and traditional.

It’s no surprise that digital is on the rise, but we think what’s missing from the equation is what you might call the “value index.” It’s not just the size of budgets that matter, but rather the value that is created (the sales produced and connections made with customers, etc.) from them.

Especially in digital channels, more marketers have learned that they can stretch existing or even smaller budgets to produce more creative or fund initiatives in new formats by embracing digital production best practices. That’s the proven way to produce higher value from budgets, whether they’re growing or shrinking.

And if digital channels are to be thought of merely as an extension of traditional channels, that’s all the more reason to set up integrated processes for converting core brand messaging and campaigns from traditional into the digital world. 

Nov 29, 2011

Using Strategic Travel to Enrich Partnerships – Part 2

Considering that travel can be expensive, what is the payoff when a client meets their digital production teams in person?  In my experience, there are several immediate and tangible benefits:

Increased buy-in (executive level):  Moving critical client work to a location they have never seen in another country can understandably make some executives nervous.  A personal visit can confirm that the facility being considered is safe, secure and fully modernized. Having executive clients visit our Deliver hubs, tour the office, meet the production teams, and spend time with office leadership allows clients to quickly get past their fears that offshoring significantly increases their risk profiles.  An IT review to see back-up generators, redundant network lines to ensure Internet connectivity and the latest servers demonstrates that our hubs are up to global industry standards.

Better communication:  As simple as it seems, “putting a face with a name” is critically important within global teams.  I’ve seen time and again how our clients appreciate the perspectives of our specialists more once they realize they are experienced professionals who are as committed to the work as they are – not just voices on a conference call.  Building relationships in person leads to improved communication even after the trip is over, as people learn to understand each other better and trust each other’s input.   And being there gives you a chance to meet everyone on the team – not only the project managers and leads who might be the most vocal on the phone.

Increased buy-in (Staff level):  When work is being transitioned from a local team to a production hub, the agency staff tasked to manage the work – typically project managers, or technical leads – is often understandably upset about the change from working with the designer in the next cubical to one thousands of miles away.  Asking them to meet the new team in person to share their knowledge, and to be responsible for an element of training or onboarding, not only helps build relationships, but also helps return a sense of accountability and ownership to those project managers and tech leads.  It gives them a stake in ensuring the new model succeeds, and helps them to focus on solutions, rather than complaints. 

In large team transitions I believe this is a particularly critical component – during one multi-brand transition, each month we cycled 1 or 2 project managers down to visit the hub for a week.  After each trip we saw a marked improvement in the performance of that project managers group.  Interestingly, as time went on and we hired new project managers, the trips were still helpful, but less dramatically so – the new PMs accepted the model as business-as-usual and so were bought-in from the beginning.

Deeper brand knowledge:  Production teams love to work on well-known global and US brands just like we do.  Hearing more about the clients is exciting to the team and helps give them real insights into those brands.  When the team better understands the real-world business challenges their clients face it gives them a much better understanding of why the work is important (and why they see all those “crazy, last-minute” requests.)  That sort of context is invaluable in really tailoring processes to work their best for your business.

Nov 17, 2011

CMOs Speak

IBM’s first CMO study (free registration required) was released a few weeks ago and offers many intriguing insights into the current CMO mindset. And of course it offers more proof of the turbulence presented by the digital revolution. A few key points. 

  • “Market and technology factors are the two most powerful external forces affecting their organizations.”
  • “Four out of five CMOs anticipate a high or very high level of complexity over the next five years, but only half feel ready to handle it.”
  • “Most CMOs are struggling in one vital respect — return on investment (ROI).”
  • 59% of CMOs report being unprepared to deal with financial constraints.

The findings reflect what we hear regularly from our clients, especially in terms of tension between new digital opportunities and the need to generate ROI within tighter budgets. This is the classic “do more with less” conundrum, which is the essential CMO imperative today. We believe digital production outsourcing based on best practices is a highly effective solution in this area, and we’re surprised that it is not more widely recognized as such.

ROI can be improved both by lowering costs (an important strategy as firms try to navigate tight economic times) and by improving performance. We know companies that structure their digital marketing programs around high-efficiency processes, best practices and a commitment to quality will achieve such results.  

And certainly digital production outsourcing helps marketers avoid being overwhelmed by complexity and uncertainty, like that associated with the emergence of new channels and technologies and with the increasing globalization of the CMO role.

It may take a few years, but we expect digital production outsourcing success stories to become a bigger part of the conversation in future CMO studies.

Nov 9, 2011

Using Strategic Travel to Enrich Partnerships (or how you can justify travel to exotic locations!)

This fall I had the opportunity to visit to several of Deliver’s digital production hubs, and was reminded, as I always am, of how valuable personal connections and in-person visits are when working with a remote team.  It was pointed out to me that despite the fascinating and sometimes even tropical locations, these visits are the opposite of vacations.  Instead of “getting away from it all” they are an opportunity to “getting right into it all,” meeting everyone in person, being where they are all day, and seeing up close and personal how the work really gets done. That’s why these visits are so important for everyone involved – us, our clients, our agency partners and Deliver’s digital production teams.

Of course like everyone at Deliver, I’m a great believer in using technology and platforms to complete digital production work seamlessly across a global network of resources. Skype is my favorite tool of all time – and between those IMs and video chats, emails and traditional conference calls, and of course our DEPP workflow system, I know it is possible to keep projects on schedule, on budget and on strategy without everyone being in the same building.  In fact, used right, those tools can make it feel just like you are working with someone in the office next door. But, there’s something about letting team members meet and connect personally that can really kick-start a partnership and help make everything work more smoothly and effectively – not only during the trip, but for long after the travel in massage is over.

Of course, travel is expensive and this is at its core a low-cost business, so we don’t propose frequent trips to a long list of international destinations.  Rather, I suggest strategically timed visits by the right client contacts and agency staff.  That may be for a kick-off meeting before establishing or transitioning work to a our production hubs.   It may be in-person training of a new team or staff person – at their location, or at yours.  Or, for large-scale programs, it may be a semi-annual visit by a few project managers for engagement debriefs, process improvement discussions and future planning.

—  to be continued —-