Cella’s Industry Report — Insights for Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 1

by Marcus Varner
, 9 min read
Cella’s Industry Report — Insights for Staying Creative & Keeping Top-Tier Talent: Part 1 Primary tabs

In a recent webinar, Jackie Schaffer, vice-president and general manager at Cella, and Nick Scholz, solutions marketing manager at Workfront, shared some points of interest from Cella's 2017 In-House Creative Industry Report and tips for retaining talent. What follows is the first in a three-part recap of the webinar. If you want to watch the entire webinar on demand, click here.


Jackie Schaffer: So, if anyone is new to the In-House Creativity Report, you’re seven years late to it. We’ve been doing it for seven years, which is amazing to us and it seems like yesterday when we started.

It’s a labor of love, though; a lot of work goes into creating this report. There’s one big change this year, right here on the cover. Not just the design of course, but if you look at the title, In-House Creative Industry Report, we very purposely removed the word “services.”

It used to say "In-House Creative Services Industry Report." And we did that because there’s definitely a difference of opinion on that word "services" in our industry.


See our post "5 Time Management Best Practices for Creative Teams" to learn new ways to help your team use time more efficiently.


Of course no one sees it, or should see it, as a word that means servitude. However, it does have a little bit of a negative stigma so we’ve removed that.

And we’re really proud because regardless of what it used to say and what it says today, it really was for in-house agencies, creative services departments, in-house creative teams; whatever you call yourself.

If you are producing creative, this report is for you.

We do this report for many reasons, but really the main three are here on the screen for you.

What are other people doing? Are you guys doing something similar?

And maybe you aren’t, and that’s okay too because there’s sometimes a business reason for it. And sometimes, maybe you’re just making life harder and there’s a way to make it easier. And if most people aren’t doing it that way, maybe you should dig in a little bit to why.

That both validates and directs potentially your opportunities for improvement or where you’re going. It highlights best practices, and then really just what’s new and different.

What are the trends that are happening in the industry? That’s shown not only in the data, some of which you’ll see today; it’s also shown in the full length report in some of the articles that are written by working creative leaders in the industry.

Our report is unique in that there are two things we do to really make sure the audience and the respondent base is very specific.

The first thing is we want to make sure it’s only in-house departments that are responding to us; that’s the very first question we ask. And the other thing, I’m sure there are a few of you on the line who took the survey; thank you very, very much for doing so.

It takes a long time; it takes more than 20 minutes to do it thoroughly. That’s not a small ask, and hopefully we deliver a really nice product for the ask we have of folks.

Because almost 400 people took place this year. And actually, more took place but 400 responses is what we boiled it down to. As you’ll see on the next page, we look at what are the roles of the people responding to the survey.

You can see vice president, director, etc.; the ones that are checked are the ones that actually we start to use in the responses. We really want senior people responding to this, because the questions we ask require senior insight.

The other thing we do is we look at things like IP addresses, and we also ask but don’t use it for any other purpose than this, if people want to optionally leave their company name and department name so that we can try and minimize any duplicates from the same organization, which we do find.

Over 500 people actually responded, and we brought that down to 300 responses that we thought were one response per applicable respondent.

One thing we always hear folks say when they ask Cella for benchmarking information is, "How do people in my industry do it?" This survey has over 25 industries represented, and there are times we go through and cut the data and look at it by industry.

But the truth of the matter is, it very rarely matters. 

There are some cases where it does, but it’s that 80/20 rule, and it might even be pushed up as far as 90/10, that industry, while it has some impact, especially when there’s regulatory environments such as information or financial services, it does have an impact, but not across the majority of what encompasses creative operations.

Nick Scholz: I actually didn’t even realize that you had the full 500 respondents before. I'd seen the report which says 375, so that’s really impressive. I didn’t know that until now.

Jackie Schaffer: We try and keep it interesting for you.

Nick Scholz: I like that, actually. Any insight you get like that, that’s really, really comprehensive, actually.

But with the intro out of the way, I wanted to leave that to Jackie. Being in this data, she really knows what’s going on. But let’s dive in and talk about a couple of points of interest that came out of this year’s report.

One of the things that’s new to the report this year, like we said it’s been going for seven years now, which means that you’ve got a really good wealth of data. But it’s data around to whom the in-house creative teams ultimately report, which is key in understanding what kind of world they’re living in.

The average in-house creative team is still reporting to the CMO, but I felt like a surprising amount—over 25 percent—are now reporting directly to a CEO, a CCO, a COO; this is not something that I would have expected myself.

That means these teams are highly visible and their contributions are on the map, so to speak, but I think there’s probably some insight into that from Jackie’s side.

Jackie Schaffer: Yes, we also found that really interesting, specifically that 10 percent of folks said they report to the chief executive officer.

To be honest, what I would point out about that response is that this question was probably misinterpreted, or perhaps not written well. Because potentially what they’re thinking is, "I report to the CMO, and she reports to the CEO so my senior executive reports to the CEO."

Really what we were trying to find out is how many folks are going into the CMO versus the chief communications officer, versus the CFO, like I did at one point in my career, or the CIO. It is not always in the same place that we would all expect the chief marketing officer; it’s really very diverse.

But I do think 10 percent to the CEO is an overstatement and probably an error or inaccuracy.

Nick Scholz: There probably are some that are like that, but there’s definitely a margin of error there, too.

I know that one person on my particular team right now had worked at a place where their creative team at one point reported into the director of IT, then was moved to the CMO, and then was moved to the CEO.

So there are probably also those who are actually reporting directly to these people.

Jackie Schaffer: For sure.

We always ask how many direct reports does the senior most creative leader have; so that head of creative services, whatever his or her title might be. And it’s really across the board; it’s almost a three-way tie as you can see here, or it is, basically.

We editorialized here in this slide that if you have seven or more direct reports as the head of creative services, it is just too many.

There are lots of things that impact how many direct reports you should have. I would look at what are your strategic responsibilities outside of managing those people, and/or the functions that they are responsible for.

So, if you are reporting into marketing, do you have marketing responsibilities that are different than what is within the creative department? How diverse are the people below you as far as what their job functions are?

I can manage eight desktop publishers. What would be really difficult would be to manage two desktop publishers, two editors, a project manager, a print production manager, and two web designers. That’s incredibly diverse and it pulls you into many different fires.

Also, the level of seniority of your direct reports makes a difference as to how much time they need of yours.

I think the sweet spot is typically four to six. Folks who have one to three direct reports might be in a very small organization, and so in order to try to create some career-pathing they may have a level that may or may not be necessary but it’s necessary in order to create career paths for other people.

A good point is we ask in addition to how many direct reports does the senior most creative leader have; we ask a second question: how many do your front line managers have.

So an organization that has other managers, how many does your manager over design manage, your manager over editorial manage, etc.

The good news is, as you can see here, 78 percent—actually, I put it in the wrong spot, there; it should be lower. But, 78 percent of those folks have six or less direct reports.

So the story here is if you’re the head of creative, you’re a lot kinder to the people who report to you in giving them less direct reports than you’ve saddled yourself with or you’ve been saddled with.

Nick Scholz: So with those direct reports, team dynamics are reflected in how they’re managed, as well.

The insights that Jackie gives into the creative directors themselves being a lot kinder to their front line managers really feeds into these pieces; what’s actually being offered in these teams to make management of the team all the better.

Remote work and flex time, which we’re going to talk about a little bit later as well, flexible schedules, is becoming more and more common as remote talent is found out there in the global market.

As you can see here, there’s a decent amount of people—it’s really growing—who are offering things like remote work tools, which does require a set of tools to be able to do; and the ability to practice flexible work time.

Jackie Schaffer: This is a really important one, and we’re going to dig back into that in a little bit.

The idea that not everyone is offering any ability to work remotely at some point; if the plumber is coming on Tuesday; can I work from home? The fact that that’s not almost an automatic in this day and age is surprising.

I do know some roles might need to work in secure areas, and there’s always an asterisk here and there.

If you’re one of those folks, and there aren’t a lot of them but there are 12 percent who can’t work remotely at all; you should look to see if you can impact that, because that’s huge in creating work-life balance for people. It’s a tough talent market right now.

And just to add more to the flex-time piece, almost a quarter of the people can’t do any flex time. That’s wild.

Again, I know we talked about the word "service" at the beginning, but we are in a bit of a service industry so sometimes there’s just expectation that our folk are in seat from 8:30 to 5:30 and readily accessible when our clients need them.

But our clients, our internal partners, they’ve got flexibility sometimes and we should look to mirror that for our organizations if possible.

Nick Scholz: I totally agree. It floored me that there are so many who can’t practice some sort of a flex time because living in this world is just really difficult when you feel like there’s no flexibility at all.


To watch the entire "Cella's 2017 In-House Creative Industry Report" webinar on demand, click here.

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