Some interesting innovations in creative and marketing agency business models have emerged in recent times.
Drivers include the evolving media landscape and proliferation of new channels, and in the short term, the evolution has been accelerated by the fallout of Covid-19 as marketing budgets have taken a hit. Building sustainable competitive advantages is now more important than ever.
Creative Zoo - a leading brand agency in Denmark - is a thought-provoking example of an agency pivoting towards sustainable income streams. In this interview, we talk to Thomas Brovst, Digital Transformation Specialist, and Hans-Georg Hansen, Senior Adviser on Communications, about how Creative Zoo is navigating the challenges and thriving in this competitive environment.
Welcome, Thomas and Hans-Georg! To start off, can you tell us about Creative Zoo, what you do, and the type of customers you work with?
Hans-Georg: Yes sure. Previously we were a traditional brand agency, helping clients with their visual identity and design challenges. We have won a number of awards and been quite successful. It remains a key part of our business today. However we are also diversifying. We are working with clients such as member organizations, manufacturers, and a few other segments to help with their content needs - specifically regular, long-form, highly designed content such as magazines, product brochures, and so on. While they come from a range of businesses, the common thread in this target customer is that they need to produce some kind of regular content to help tell their stories to their audiences.
What are the specific problems you are solving for these new clients?
Thomas: Many of the new prospects we speak to have common problems. They are typically working with a lot of different tools; social, web, and print, and so on are siloed, and lack a big picture overview. They are also doing a lot of copy-pasting, and getting lost in workflow, with large numbers of images and files flying around - what WoodWing calls “content spaghetti”. So one of the key problems we solve from a technical standpoint is how to simplify and streamline their tooling, automate their workflows, and do as much work as possible in one interface.
What is your way into the conversation?
Hans-Georg: We try to get hold of the people who are creating the content, whether they belong to communications, marketing, or another team. In most cases we already know the problems they are experiencing and where their pain is, and we show them how we can help them. We try to understand the purpose and audience of the content, and when we understand that we can start to discuss channels, and what kind of formats we will bring into the market - print, podcast, video, or something else.
Thomas: Around this point, we also start talking about tooling. We open their eyes to the possibilities of what they can achieve with the right tool, instead of using five different tools. That becomes very interesting very quickly for them, because they can do away with these copy-paste processes in which five or ten versions have been created and no-one knows which one is approved.
Hans-Georg: Yes the summary of all of this is really about working closely with the customer to learn how to orchestrate their content, from the strategic, workflow, and tooling perspectives.
Interview with Creative Zoo
You are using WoodWing as a central solution for a number of these customers - WoodWing Assets for managing content and WoodWing Studio for content creation and workflow. At what point do you bring WoodWing into the conversation?
Thomas: One important thing to note here is that we are a creative agency - not an IT provider. We co-create content with our customers and are wholly focused on solving their problems and making their day easier, not selling IT functionality. So WoodWing is never the beginning of the conversation - in the beginning, we demonstrate our creativity and knowledge, backed up by useful tools. However, as the conversation goes on we use WoodWing as a proof point to help convince the customer that we are worth talking to. Going back to an earlier point about streamlining tools, we show that WoodWing can be the main interface to work in, and it is very valuable in automating processes and managing workflows. That gets them very interested and is one of the things they buy into.
Hans Georg: Also on that point it helps for us to show content creators that WoodWing is the main tool they will use daily and demonstrate that it makes their life easier, giving them more time to spend on things that are more productive and fun.
How do you approach orchestrating content for your clients?
Thomas: For magazine-style content, we have found in some cases previously we were brought in too late and just handed content to make pretty. But to be really effective, we start with an editorial meeting with the comms or marketing team, and ideally some of the content creators or designers also, as the people with their hands on the product often have some good ideas on how to improve processes. In this meeting, we will really try to dig under the surface and ask dumb questions about processes, and challenge them to come up with new ways of working.
Next, we create collections in WoodWing Assets [Editor’s note: a collection is all the assets needed to create an issue], and invite external contributors with upload links from Assets. Then there is some kind of selection going on which is handled by statuses. We typically have an internal process with the editorial staff where they proofread articles and make suggestions about the images, and then handover files and items to our creative people. Then it goes to production in WoodWing Studio.
Do you see your approach - branching out into this regular, long-form, magazine-style content, as a trend among agencies?
Hans-Georg: Not sure if it is a trend, but I will say that the time of only offering standard solutions is over. Agencies that are successful are those who can build a relationship in which they are co-creating with their clients, and using their combined skills and knowledge to bring the right thing into the market. This goes for the client-side too. The clients and agencies that are willing to have open dialogues with one another, and try something new, are the ones who are going to be successful.
You have talked a lot about efficiencies and workflow in terms of how your tools such as WoodWing help you and your clients. In your opinion does tooling have an impact on the actual quality of the work too?
Thomas: It depends on how you define quality. If you are looking at the end product, for example, a magazine that is produced with or without WoodWing, the product will look the same. But indirectly WoodWing frees up time by automating and triggering all the processes, and this extra time means teams can put more focus on design and content. So this definitely enables teams to produce a better product. You could produce the same end product without WoodWing, but it's going to be more chaotic for sure.
Hans-Georg: In my opinion, yes. Not because you can’t create a high-quality product without WoodWing, but with WoodWing you can consistently meet your own standards of quality much more easily. For example, when you are creating an issue, you have content in different formats coming in from all different directions. With WoodWing, we can track every piece of content so everyone knows what the original was and can go back and see what has been changed so far. This is a game-changer for editorial and marketing staff who often don’t know what’s approved and not approved, and what is up and what is down. So on the quality question - we can be sure the content looks the same or meets the same consistent standard every time. The styles that are produced become a standard for the next issue or next time a piece of content is created. Consistency is also a measure of quality.