Chaos Costs Money: Delivery Sessions Interview with Alex Trevisan, Freelance Creative Director & Marketing Consultant | Ex-Amazon, Wayfair, Agency

Alex Trevisan has spent the last decade and a half immersing himself into experiences that have touched the creative production process in every single way. After working at major brands from Amazon to Wayfair, he’s now helping brands and agencies take their creative production processes to the next level.

At a time where efficiency has never been more dire to success, we asked the Creative Director & Marketing Consultant to share his perspective on what’s really disrupting the creative production process today and how to organize the best team to handle it

Tell me about your background / experience in creative production.

I’ve always really enjoyed writing, so there was an immediate draw to the creative world for me. Then halfway through my senior year of college with no idea what I wanted to do, one of my marketing professors introduced us to careers in advertising, which allowed me to discover copywriting and content strategy as a potential path for me. We spend our whole lives immersed in advertising as consumers, but this was a lightbulb moment where I realized, ‘Hey, people actually do this for a living. That’s pretty cool.’ So I saw the opportunity to enter the creative space as a writer and progress into more leadership roles deeper within the creative production process.

For the first decade of my career, I was on the agency side, which started in content and digital strategy during the early days of social media when brands were trying to understand these channels and how to leverage them as part of their marketing mix. Eventually, I moved into creative director roles with several agencies, overseeing 360 campaigns, full marketing strategy, and brand development for clients from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses. I eventually went in-house with Amazon, helping launch the brand for their freight transportation business and build out a creative studio which serviced several logistics brands within it, before most recently working as Creative Director at Wayfair, overseeing their B2B supplier and B2C marketing creative teams.

What is your role now?

Today, I work in freelance consulting, helping brands and agencies who need an overhaul of their creative process with system optimization. I provide a fresh set of eyes and help them revamp their workflows to maximize efficiencies, do more with less, and meet the outsized creative demand necessary to drive growth that a lot of companies are experiencing these days.

How do you think the creative production process has changed in recent years?

Creative production means different things to different people, but for this purpose, let’s define it as taking a creative concept and building out creative assets for launch. And the scale and quantity of that has really increased recently, which has only amplified the focus on the process itself. More recent trends in marketing are heavily reliant on the ability to test, optimize, and reiterate, and we need increasingly more assets to do that. That’s just the nature of digital. In the past, you might run a print campaign with just 10 variations for an entire year. Now, with just an Instagram campaign, for example, you may need those 10 just for testing upfront, then you’re constantly optimizing. It’s caused such a heightened demand — on much shorter timelines.
But budgets have also had a big impact. Many creative teams have been able to adapt to these performance trends because that’s what the market is asking for and what is working in the lower-funnel. But I don’t believe creative production processes have necessarily caught up to accommodate that workflow, which has led to capacity problems. Teams are trying to figure out how to dig in and optimize this output with the same amount of people and same budgets to work with — doing more with less.

What do you think is the biggest disruption to a smooth creative production process?

One of the biggest has to be accommodating last-minute feedback and changes, especially if your process is not prepared to handle it at scale. I think it’s safe to say every creative has gotten late feedback at some point in their career, and if you’re working on a couple of assets, that’s not a big deal. But if the deliverable is hundreds of assets, even one small change can lead to a massive bottleneck if you don’t have the right process in place. It’s one thing for teams to go from zero to 100 for launch, but it’s another to have to pivot and navigate changes that affect the whole process. That’s definitely something that every team has to be proactive about.

So when you talk about “having the right process in place,” what does that look like?

It comes down to two main things; the first is building relationships. So much of this business is doing just that. Establishing trust between team members, stakeholders, and clients upfront is a big piece of the puzzle before you can ever put pen to paper or move any pixels. By forming these alliances, you can better align everyone on what needs to get done and what you’re trying to accomplish, which creates a strong foundation for doing great work with a downstream impact that eliminates misalignment and some of those changes that may come through.

This is especially important for larger organizations. When you’re working with many cross-functional teams, you’re going to have a lot of different opinions. By aligning up front on goals and expectations, and bringing along all partner teams for the ride throughout the process, you’ll greatly reduce the likelihood of an approver coming in late in the game and throwing a major wrench in the equation. It sounds fundamental, but having a leader on the creative side that will champion for this is something that often gets overlooked.

The best way to get on the same page upfront is through a customer-focused, data-driven approach. It’s not about what I want or you want. It’s about figuring out what the customer wants — and how the brand can uniquely fill that gap. Recently, I was working on a brand system project where the business lead said to me in a review, “I personally hate that color you’re proposing, but I see why it’s right for our customers and strategically makes sense.” Honestly, that type of feedback makes me do a little happy dance. Compare that to situations where an up-front, customer-centric approach wasn’t part of the process, and an “I don’t like that color” comment downstream turns into needing to scramble and redo a ton of assets.

The second is the process itself. You have to take a really close look at the journey a project takes from kick off to completion and see where there are areas to improve. With so much to get out the door with any given project, it’s usually all hands on deck, and the process improvement part falls by the wayside. There’s always so much to do, but the longer you run without a strong, cohesive process from one department to the next, the more these efficiencies will continue to come up.

What are some other tips for organizing a creative team for optimal speed, efficiency, and quality?

  1. Team structure. If you have a creative team working on thousands of assets, there needs to be some handoffs along the way to create an optimal process. So the key is figuring out how to build a team that is skilled in each of the areas you need. From a senior creative team working on big picture concepts to production partners with a focus on the day-to-day of building out the concept and executing quickly. Understand your workflow on a deeper level and create a team that’s best equipped to handle each aspect of it.

  2. Time boxing. It’s hard to know how long it will take to come up with the winning idea, but putting some parameters around time you have can help you get there quicker. Without these limitations and the chance to work around them, it’s too easy for timelines to spin out of control and hours to pile up, which puts both you and the client in a bad position. If any task is taking longer than projected, flag it with management so you can nip it in the bud.

  3. Open communication. I always encourage my teams to speak up on issues early in the process. Or even better, before they become issues. For example, in our Monday morning stand ups, we’ll have people let us know if they foresee a bandwidth concern or being tight on capacity, so we can figure out how to make adjustments proactively. The more you can encourage your team to communicate early on, you give yourself more time to address the little things before they become bigger.

  4. The right tools. Tooling for the creative process is greatly improving over the last couple of years to support scale. And having them integrated into your workflow is key to staying organized. That could be a digital asset management platform where everything is tagged, archived, and easily accessible to all team members to make handoffs easily. Or it could be technology that assists in smoother production when it comes to resizing or building out templates that accommodate multiple versioning versus handling each one by one. If you can have these tools in place from the get-go, they can make the whole process a lot more efficient.

What do you see for the future of creative production? Anything teams/leaders can do to prepare?

AI is going to have a major impact — it already has. It’s allowing creatives to accomplish more with less, and it’s becoming less stigmatized in how it may disrupt jobs and processes because of that. Every leader should be aware of what’s out there and how these tools can be used to enhance their specific processes. No one has a crystal ball to predict the future, but one thing is for sure, it will mean a lot more noise. There will be a lot more being put out there, a lot of which will be low quality. As creatives, the reality is we’re going to have to compete against that. But I think part of the solution is for creative leaders to get ahead of what’s happening and figure out how to use AI to add more value to their clients, their teams, and their work, while still delivering creative that’s grounded in strategy and a focus on the customer.