The Agency View on Creative Operations Trends in 2023

More than half of agencies took on more resources during the last year and 62% expect to grow again in 2023. However, 52% of these agencies still feel under-resourced! These are some of the insights from Screendragon’s latest survey of the creative industry. The State of Creative Operations 2023 consulted 100 creative leaders to paint a picture of the industry today. This included brand marketers, agency creatives, and in-house teams. DDB, Leo Burnett, Vye, TBWA, Weber Shandwick were among those agencies that contributed to the wide-ranging survey.

If you want to see a snapshot of the full report findings, then why not explore our easy-to-digest creative operations 2023 infographic? However, if you’re interested in seeing how the agency demographic is responding to the ever-evolving creative landscape then keep reading. Welcome to The State of Creative Operations 2023 – The Agency View!

I. Location, Location, Location
II. More Resources Please!
III. Turning to the Gig Economy
IV. Old Habits Remain
V. Gaps in the Agency Tech Stack

I. Location, location, location

When Screendragon last surveyed the creative industry in 2021, most agency workers were fully remote. Since then, the creative community has largely drifted towards a hybrid working arrangement. In our 2023 report, we can reveal that 62% of agencies are now choosing to mix home working and office trips on a regular basis.

Those who read advertising magazines will have seen that some agencies are pushing their teams to return to the office. According to our survey results, this could prove to be an unpopular move. When we asked agencies whether they’d like to see a full return to the office, only 16% want to go back to the traditional Monday to Friday commute. To put this into perspective, 24% of the agency community would choose a fully remote working arrangement, if allowed.

II. More Resources Please!

During the last year, more than half of those agencies that were surveyed increased in size. Furthermore, 62% expect to take on more creative workers again in 2023. This would seem to portray an agency sector in good shape. However, the rate of growth does not feel sufficient for agencies as 52% of creative teams still feel under-resourced.

So, why do agencies feel overstretched if most are growing year on year? We can possibly explain this sentiment through increasing workloads for agency workers. Following a similar development in our 2021 report, we can reveal that 70% of agencies experienced an increase in workload this year too. If you feel like timelines are tightening, expectations are rising, and that there’s just too much to do – well, you’re not alone!

Agency leaders are always looking for smarter ways to manage their team and workloads. If your company needs to find better ways to resource their team that doesn’t limit the ability to capacity plan and create resourcing workflows, then check out this handy guidebook to see the 5 most common questions managers will ask when it comes to resourcing!

III. Turning to the Gig Economy

If workloads are increasing and teams feel under-resourced then naturally agencies will need to source help externally. In our creative operations 2023 report, we revealed that 58% of agencies needed to use freelancers more in 2023. Why did so many teams need to turn to the gig economy? Yes, you guessed it. Predictably, 61% of those that used freelancers more were required to do so to manage workloads.

In addition to capacity issues, agencies also needed to onboard freelancers for ancillary reasons. Of those surveyed, 42% of agencies turned to contractors to fill skills gaps within the organization. After workloads and skills gaps, the next most common reason for embracing the gig economy is to take advantage of cost flexibility and savings! Around one fifth of our agency community felt that the gig economy provided economic benefits beyond the work itself.

If your agency is taking on more freelancers in 2023, then a robust freelancer management system can help control the chaos, speed up onboarding, and make offboarding equally pain-free.

IV. Old Habits Remain

Agencies need to be at the front line when it comes to trends, innovation, and evolution. However, many firms are lagging when it comes to modern creative processes and technologies. When we researched the creative community, we discovered nearly half, 44% to be exact, of agencies still use email to manage briefs. However, email is more advanced than the 16% who still communicate briefs verbally and don’t transmit any record of their plan!

The briefing process isn’t the only agency activity that is somewhat antiquated. We also learned that half of our agency respondents are using Excel to manage and track estimates and costs (Psst, you know you can use software to manage these things now, right?).

V. Gaps in the Tech Stack

Based on what you’ve read about increasing workloads and old-fashioned methods, you may not be surprised to learn that many agencies feel their creative tech stack is inadequate. While most of our agency community (73%) use project management software, less than half are employing solutions for resourcing (34%), time tracking (47%), online proofing (27%), and creative automation (13%). Furthermore, only 16% of agencies revealed they were very satisfied with their current tech stack.

As a result, most agencies are in the market for new solutions in 2023. Our survey results show that 91% are currently looking to purchase new technology to support creative work. The most popular tools for creative buyers entering the market are Workflow Management Software, followed by Project Management, and then Resource Management. Interestingly, nearly half of those agencies using project management software are looking for a new provider (Hint: we know an agency specialist vendor that has won awards for project management, workflow automation, and resource management).

VI. Get the 2023 Report

Want to read more insights from our creative community? See how a combination of leaders from brands, agencies, and in-house agencies produced a thorough state of the nation in our 2023 creative operations report!