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Which Creative Tech Platform For Your Marketing?

June 12, 2020 Business News, Headline News No Comments Email Email

There are growing communities of creative and marketing freelancers available through a growing number of online technology platforms; but which is right for you?

A recent survey of 170 Marketing Directors and Chief Marketing Officers, even in some of the bigger brands, owned up to using these outsource services like 99Designs, Freelancer, Fivr, 90 Seconds, Connect Dev, Expert 360 and similar. This is the inside scoop, sharing the pros and cons of each of these major services. Which is right for the bigger brands, for mid to small business or the solo entrepreneur?

57% of the marketing industry survey respondents voted the ease of access to the diverse and hard-to-track freelance community as one of their top reasons for using these types of services, but the leading reason is for low pricing without the overheads of the bigger advertising agencies. Likewise the respondents voted that the best talent were no longer in the big ad agencies and these experienced talent were highly sought after for category and specialty experience but getting lost to the industry.

Here are a few PROS and CONS of the key providers for creative, tech, strategic and production services available for marketing and advertising projects.

Freelancer.com.au

PROS: Freelancer is an easy to use online platform that allows you to post a project, receive multiple bids in a competitive process. Many providers race to the bottom of the hourly rates to win the job on low budget grounds and you will surely get a low cost job if you want that. The work of the freelancer is less of a focus than the pricing, and star ratings and reviews by past users is the way to evaluate a good worker. Mediation services are available should the project not meet standards. There are talent in many different categories and the technology is fairly easy to use with inbuilt chat, milestone setting, payment made up front in escrow to be released on approval of the job.

CONS: Workers tend to be the budget end of the service category and may be a crowd sourced solution which covers the hobbyist and less experienced talent too. The technical skills of the workers and the quality of the end result is only known at the end of the project, and for a high end marketing team with deadlines and brand standards this can be risky. If the worker is smart about how they work they can rack up a timesheet well above the approved scope and the system can automatically release those funds without approval if the weekly cap is set too high for the scope of the project (best to set milestones and weekly hours to protect the buyer). Generally the quality of the work is aligned with the budget. The ratings are made by clients and users who often don’t really know how to evaluate quality creative or tech and this gives a false impression of the skills of the talent involved. Sometimes the talent and buyer mutually agree to give each other a good rating and move on rather than get mediation involved, so the ratings are a bit misleading at times.

Services like Fiverr, ODesk, and Upwork all operate fairly similarly to Freelancer with similar pros and cons.

OVERALL: This platform is ideal for low risk, simple tasks that don’t require an expert and the deadline is not fixed.

Suits&Sneakers

PROS: As the new kid on the block for the new model marketing services, this business is about hand-picking the best talent for any project and supervising the whole thing all the way through to keep things on track for both sides. The suits are the strategists and the people who get things done and the sneakers are the creative, tech and production people. The entire marketing chain is available under the one roof and is designed to be the first place you go to for anything marketing and advertising. All talent are pre-approved and aligned to the project and cultural needs of the business.

This is a boutique offering with the industry’s best talent available under the one roof as individuals, teams and also for an end to end project. As the best talent have the category and specialist experience they are hired by the advertising agencies, design studios, PR companies to add skills to their existing offering as well as being available to brands directly too. In many ways this is like buying a Porsche wholesale. Top quality, focused on brand performance and campaign optimisation and they don’t do timesheet billing (actually actively stand against them because of the reward for poor process).

The company owner is a voice for equality and passionate about removing stereotypes from media and marketing and all work has this eye across it. All projects are quoted up-front based on a fixed scope of work. Talent profiles are available to review up front to align with creative and marketing briefs. Talent can be chosen for industry category experience and also for skill specialty. If there isn’t someone on the immediate roster that fits the brief Suit&Sneakers will find them for you to complete the team from a global pool. With a particular interest in multi-talented people who generally don’t fit the typical ad agency they offer further economies of scale without reducing quality of the work. There is also training at the back end for talent skill development and supporting the industry too. Escrow services are available and standard industry agreements are in place. Recently applying for a Labour Hire License services are expanding into lower cost recruitment as well now.

CONS: There are some services, packages and training available for the smaller businesses to support them on a budget, but generally this pool of talent is best in show and hand-picked for their specialist expertise. There is currently no online platform to log in to to run projects online, but brands and agencies often prefer to maintain their own processes (which have become industry standard amongst the top talent). This isn’t the cheapest option, but is value based. The teams all work remotely with no plush offices to attend in person, but at least you can have a dedicated team who can work anywhere without the overheads.

OVERALL: This business model is unique in many ways with end to end solutions encompassing most of the other businesses in review here in this article, however the quality of the people is what sets Suits&Sneakers apart, and the low overhead model ironically makes them highly competitive giving you the best people for less. The model is competitive enough to be hired by other industry creative services companies to skill up their offering too as a ‘white label’. Savvy in-house marketing teams will love the experience of working with a top hand-picked person or a team.

Expert 360

PROS: Expert 360 has a network of experienced consultants of various kinds, and marketing is just one of them. As far as quality goes this is one of the better networks. The consultant does the negotiations themselves and sets their own rates. Talent on here are good quality and a global solution. This is an easy to use system to hire people for the longer term placements and is competitive against the traditional recruitment process that charges substantial fees to place talent in businesses in roles (rather than projects). Flat fees or project fees can be arranged. Fees are established fairly with a published rate guide to go on. A 15% fee is charged, on top of the freelancer’s costs plus expenses at cost like payroll tax, and payroll administration fees and by market standards that is a fair fee. Up front payment for projects, held in escrow, make it fair for all parties. Identity is verified and references are checked.

CONS: The talent on here are more likely the top end of the strategic chain and great for advisory but less about getting things done, particularly in the creative and production side of marketing. They are a good solution for consulting, strategy, advice and even project management but rely on other teams for implementation. The projects can become competitive and a race the bottom of the budget barrel, but not nearly like freelancer and their equivalent however. The best talent tend to opt out of the online bidding wars when the commercial gain is not comparable with their skills and experience.

One important problem for this network is that the buyer on this site is often inexperienced and don’t know the value of what they are buying and can buy the wrong thing for their business, unwittingly (like many of these platforms attracting mid to smaller businesses). The race to the bottom of the budget barrel despite being the mid to top end of the market makes it non-viable for a lot of the good talent to remain involved and 15% profit is often about all they’ll get out of the job which is taken away by the platform administration and therefore good talent don’t stick in there for project based work.

Many brands are unaware that Expert360 business has the right to use the uploaded content intellectual property forming all or part of the Posted Content, for any purpose and that could even be marketing. Some brands require more confidentiality than this allows. Fees tend to be on day rates and the number of days may not be capped which doesn’t protect the buyer (in fairness, that’s the same anywhere on daily or hourly rates). The Expert 360 fee is for providing access and payment to talent but no project management or account management fo the process. Client feedback on the site is often made by clients who don’t really know how to evaluate such services, despite a few big brands who use the service who are visually displayed on the site and supportive.

Expert360 doesn’t specialise in marketing and it is just one of the many services, which means it doesn’t go as deep, although is not designed for this – it has all operational services under the one roof as their core offering which is commendable.

Services like consultxperts.com, chiefoutsiders.com (marketing only) are fairly similar.

OVERALL: One of the better solutions if you know what you are doing as the buyer and provides access to some top talent with robust compliance. A good solution for top strategic and operational talent under the one roof.

99 Designs

PROS: 99 Designs is an online platform for design based projects and offers set packages for producing creative assets. Where other platforms complete to drop their price by the hour the talent on this service compete creatively by showcasing some of the work before being appointed for the final project. Pricing is fair and allows for decent mid-weight talent to deliver. In testing, a logo project saw hundreds of freelance designers, or people with some design skills to upload logo after logo. In a subjective part of the industry this is a good way to see what you get before you buy. The ability to shortlist and sort the designs is an excellent user experience too. When a logo was deemed to be a copy of something in the public or from a stock library it was flagged and removed to protect the buyer.

CONS: Once the design is chosen you receive the finished working files if you request them (and you must). The artwork provided in three projects run on this platform all failed technical testing by a finished artist, and one was even produced on software that wasn’t designed for logo designing. The logos sometimes failed testing across multiple devices and uses without a full stress test done during design to see that the colours and shapes were legible in multiple applications and further work was necessary, but it is likely only an industry professional would actually care about this. Some brands don’t like putting a confidential new product up available on a public platform like 99Designs.

OVERALL: When subjectivity gets in the way during logo design this service of seeing options before you buy is actually a very good solution, despite the possibility of high end technical issues. If you know how to brief the work you are likely to get a good outcome. The quality of the work is likely to be superior to the likes of Freelancer for a design aesthetic and the pricing is accessible for smaller businesses. Overall a good option for small business.

90 Seconds

PROS: 90 Seconds is a good single place to go to for videography content. Packages are easy to understand and laid out cleanly to click and book in the system. Pricing is fair market value and is set as a flat fee without inducing a price war to push the quality down to rock bottom. There are good examples of content produced so you can be inspired for the type of work you want including webinars (which is useful in this current climate of COVID-19) right up to the more premium advertising content. There are some decent talent behind the scenes in this business model providing world class standard video production for retail and corporate communications. Decent brands are behind the case studies. Producers manage all projects ensuring the project goes smoothly and available as a global solution over six key offices, with 30,000+ videos under their belt. 90 Seconds Premium allows for more customised projects. These services are particularly good for those brands who don’t want to hire a traditional ad agency.

CONS: Advertising content with the very best industry film directors and producers tends to be done by more boutique film companies and is the preference for larger brands and advertising agencies. Professional producers and creative services directors prefer to review showreels of the specific talent involved and don’t buy an ‘off the shelf’ package like on 90 Seconds. That’s not exactly a con for everyone, but a market niche choice.

Genero.com is a similar service with slightly more customised solutions.

OVERALL: Top notch videography talent in an easy to use model, particularly good for brands with marketing departments who know what they are doing and don’t want to utilise a typical ad agency or video production house. Pricing is decent and doesn’t force low quality talent into the projects which retain production values. Ad agency head hours are avoided and that’s probably the most attractive part for the marketers working in-house.

Short Term Girlfriend

PROS: A specialist home for the advertising industry’s producer talent available for freelance work. Talent has industry specific experience and designed to support ad agencies for overflow and for the smaller agencies without producers on staff.

CONS: Very niche with producers for video content only and specialists in agency production services. Many of these talent are also available through other sources including Suits&Sneakers and some through 90 Seconds, but it is not a full service production house or marketing service where you get everything done.

Similar services include Freelancers Promotions or Top Tech amongst other production roles.

OVERALL: Useful to ad agencies only, and (at a push) to in-house marketing departments.

Devcconnect.co

PROS: This platform is especially for web development specialists and fairly easy to receive qualified talent for web and app projects. The project is set in the system and sent to relevant talent to apply for the project. Designed for projects and assignments. The talent are shortlisted and contacted by the buyer directly to negotiate the terms of the project and to allow the buyer to scrutinise their work and determine fit for purpose. Talent were a high quality on testing. A one off fee for the right to receive the resumes is an easy way to work for irregular projects.

CONS: The plain and clunky web user experience of the site is definitely not a showcase for the quality of the talent behind it. The irony of it! If you have a lot of projects and need different talent the one off format for the fees can add up. Similar services include TopTal.com

OVERALL: If you know what you are doing and know what to look for you can find good talent here if you can bear the horrid online user experience.

There is a lot happening in the marketing and advertising network with the freelance industry growing bigger than ever and with many of the best talent moving out of the bigger ad agencies and otherwise lost to the industry. These models for the market are very timely and depending on your needs they all have their place. 

*Survey Marketing Industry Wishlist 2019 conducted by Suits&Sneakers of 170 top Marketing Industry professionals.

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