Modern business runs - and grows - on big data. Marketing strategies that companies wouldn't dream of contemplating a couple of decades ago are now based on actionable data and the ability to target an audience of one. The technological capabilities boggle the imagination. Then why are so many creative products and processes lingering on the sidelines during this wave of data/technology excitement? Our observations and surveys show a gap between where creatives are and where they can be (i.e., more efficient, knowledgeable, imaginative, collaborative, valuable, successful. . . ). Clearly there's an opportunity for in-house agencies (IHAs) to play in this game.

Technology Presents Unique Challenges
By looking more strategically at how the IHA creative technology stack can work for them, the creative team can be empowered to review, analyze, and act on impactful data, to the cheers of their clients. However, significant challenges can stand in the way of designing a powerful, relevant tech environment for creatives' use and benefit. Often their technology ecosystems are reactive amalgamations put together out of immediate necessity; it's rare to see companies take a step back to examine the in-house agency's tech set from a strategic standpoint.

Constant change is another challenge. The array of technology offerings for the creative environment is expanding, the tools gaining in sophistication. Yes, they can provide a target audience's feedback in almost real time. Sure they can help you sprint from concept to finished product at blazing speeds. And of course data is the underlying key to all these capabilities. But the technology options must be carefully vetted.

Two Types of Data
So what kinds of data will benefit the creative team, where will this data come from and what can they do? Two types of data sets are especially important for the IHA to have: creative data (as in which creative will resonate best with a defined target audience to maximize ROI); and operational data (produced by the systems, activities, procedures and processes at work in the IHA day to day).

Creative Data is the New Creative Brief
The strategic positioning and objectives customarily provided in the creative brief are often derived from market research and company/product goals. Which in turn, are based on big data and analytics pulled from a wide range of inputs. These include qualitative and quantitative data, as well as digital and web-based interactions. Actionable target audience insights and feedback are also natural and valuable essentials driving the creative brief.

Accessing and understanding the implications of all these data sets are critical first steps for an IHA's lead as he/she positions and directs the creative product. And as the creation phase begins to hum, so, too can the technology stack and tools that are carrying the effectiveness of today's marketing materials to new levels of success.

Data in Action
As an example, let's imagine that the creative product referenced above has four components: a background; a product image; a headline and a call to action (CTA).

Those components can be tagged as separate assets and loaded into a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system. Thousands of digital assets maybe stored here, including various backgrounds, alternate product image shots, a range of headlines based on audience type as well as a selection of CTAs. At this point a Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) tool comes into play. Using this tool, the creative team can select a group of assets, arrange them for maximum impact and then serve them to a specified target audience segment, all in a fraction of the time these steps used to take.

Designing to the Data
Based on metrics of audience reaction to the creative product, the individual components can be easily switched out and tested to learn if different combinations will produce greater response. Over time, the DCO tool will automatically generate variations that resonate the best with a particular target segment.

Operational Data - the Other Half of a Tech Stack
Of course, creative data is just half of the story. There is also operational data that gives insights into how, and how well, your team is operating. While many IHAs use tools that provide operational data, there are just as many that do not maximize the potential of these tools. Through our conversations at Cella and the In-House Creative Industry Report, we can confirm that just about all teams have a workflow tool in place to capture project hours and other data, but too many organizations stop there. The fact is, these tools have the capacity to offer so much more actionable data than creative teams take advantage of, such as profitability by project level and type (in effort and dollars) as well as supporting resource planning based on specific user skills.

These data points are interesting on their own but they really become exciting once the DAM system is integrated with the workflow tool. In tandem, the two systems can tie together the profitability of an asset type, based on resources used to create the asset and then determine which assets actually get more use and therefore provide more value. Knowing the ROI on the level of effort tied to an asset that outperforms other components can really start to change the way an IHA contributes to the bottom line. Combining once-siloed data, creative leaders can see how to prioritize workload and better evaluate what work they should be supporting for the business.

Assess, Analyze and Design
More technologies are and will be focused in this direction. Assess your creative tech environment, analyze it, and finally design it. Then you'll be able to leverage creative data to empower your creative IHA. And your entire team can lead the way forward by cost effectively designing powerful, imaginative, impactful work.

For more information on emerging technologies and our recommended CreativeStack, look for our upcoming whitepaper: How the Creative Team Can Stack the Odds in Their Favor.