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Creative Ops

Air’s Creative Operations Manifesto

February 16, 2022 · 5 min read

This is how you win.

It’s never been easier to be creative. Anyone with a phone has a camera in their pocket. Canva and Figma bring design abilities to the masses. TikTok is the most intuitive, powerful, and yet simple video production tool of all time. Nothing stands between your ideas and audiences across the globe except for a device with an internet connection and the desire to create.

Today, everyone is a creative — and every company is a media company. We live in the age of content, and businesses live or die on their ability to build a compelling brand, and then keep producing and broadcasting that brand, day after day after day.

The greatest challenge for communicators is not creating the next asset — it’s managing the creative process. We don’t need another creation tool, cloud-enabled or not. Today, the biggest problem facing teams of all shapes and sizes is time wasted on the manual tasks of organizing, approving, and sharing content.

The answer to that problem? A watertight Creative Operations System. 

What is a “Creative Ops System?”

A Creative Ops System is the language that translates the chaos of creativity into one focused workflow — bridging the gaps between each step of the creative process. It’s like Git or GitHub for visual data. 

Assets are created in After Effects or Canva, they sync onto Air, and they’re versioned, approved, and cataloged as they’re distributed to agency partners, social media platforms, Figma, Shopify, or your CMS. Businesses no longer need librarians, asset managers, archivers, or distributors. 

A Creative Ops System is a platform, or series of connected tools, that automates all the tedious operations work in the creative process. It’s the bridge between people, processes, and tools.

What are the roles behind the “system”?

An abbreviated and hardly exhaustive list: Creative Directors, Marketing Managers, Creative Operations Managers, Brand Managers, Social Media Managers, Account Managers at agencies, Design Leads, freelance creatives, Media Operations Managers, and Chief Marketing Officers.

All these people are already doing Creative Ops work. But let’s be honest: “wearing many hats” can get old real quick. Intentionally setting up a Creative Ops framework makes it easier for marketers and creative managers to focus on the work they’re actually meant to be doing.

Implementing a Creative Ops System frees these people up to focus on more complex, urgent work. It’s about enabling people to do their best work through strategic use of tools and processes.

Why have I never heard about Creative Ops?

Creative Operations is fairly new — but there’s somebody doing it at nearly every company, whether they call it that or not. It’s been identified as a field in its own right for two main reasons.

1. Modern organizations have a greater need for creative assets than ever before. 

Content is king and the war for attention is fierce. There’s hardly a business out there today that isn’t juggling hundreds, if not thousands, of photos and video assets.

“Creative management, organization, and tagging are becoming major issues as the pace of content creation scales,” says Nik Sharma of Sharma Brands. “Brands have to launch new creative every week, testing, cycling, trying different headlines, personalizations, etc. You cannot win by going broad. You have to get specific, which means you need exponentially more creative, which creates this organization and management issue.”

Modern consumers have high expectations for brand experience. They believe engaging with your brand (buying a product, sharing a social media post, etc.) says something important about who they are. Brand experience is everything, and understanding that is crucial to break away from your competition. Every. Touchpoint. Counts.

Companies cannot survive without a strong brand; but a strong brand’s growing content needs can quickly become unmanageable. A powerful Creative Ops System helps bring order to the chaos.

2. Specialized software is springing up left and right, built to address the “media business-ification” happening across all industries.

The previous generation of software, including Dropbox and the Adobe Creative Suite, was either too broad or too technical to best serve modern teams. Google Drive eventually beat Dropbox for written document sharing and collaboration; Air beats Dropbox for visual asset sharing and collaboration. Figma beats Adobe Photoshop on ease-of-use for visual asset creation and collaboration.

The 2020s are extremely friendly to entrepreneurs, and the rise of Creative Ops is part of that. It’s not too different from the promise of no-code and low-code apps: it’s about removing the barriers and shortening the distance between a problem and a solution.

Every brand is a media company. The rise of influencers means that even individuals have become media businesses in their own right (Jay Z said it best: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man”).

Open your phone’s camera roll. Your computer’s downloads folder. Your Dropbox. How many thousands of images, photos, videos do you have? A Creative Ops System gives it structure.

The future of Creative Ops

New businesses are founded every day. Those businesses need Instagram and TikTok accounts, paid advertising assets, campaign content, and more. Countless creatives will inevitably produce countless creative assets.

All of this needs to be coordinated and managed. In large organizations, entire roles are built around procuring the right tools, tagging the multiple versions properly, and ensuring that everything is in its right place. But for growing businesses and brands, a tool that functions as the bridge between marketing and creative teams is essential. It has to be simple. It has to be seamless. It has to work, because your business depends on it. 

We haven’t hit peak Creative Ops, though the pandemic-induced upheaval of traditional, in-person office work has only accelerated the climb.

The working world is waking up to the necessity of a strong Creative Operations System, and there will be no turning back. Your business is competing with every other business for just a moment of a customer’s attention. Accounting for Creative Ops allows you to optimize content creation, collaboration, and distribution for this brave new world. 

Creative Ops: This is how you win.

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