As brands continue to mull the cost-benefit of in-house and agency models, Adobe’s top marketer, Ann Lewnes, has been ramping up her reliance on a third talent pool – the brand’s user community – as she begins to double down on mobile.
Adobe’s marketing operation runs on a hybrid model, tapping the creative juices of agencies such as 72&Sunny and Goodby Silverstein & Partners alongside its in-house team.
The latter has grown substantially since Lewnes first took on the job of chief marketing officer in 2006; while the company does not reveal team sizes, its combined staff base has grown to 21,000 over the past three years – largely due to a number of notable acquisitions.
The chief marketing officer believes the company was ahead of the curve in the recruitment of not just top-level creative conceptualists for in-house work, but indirectly hiring the likes of “copywriters, designers and testers”. She says this helps the company to move “really, really quickly” when it began to channel the majority of its marketing efforts into digital.
However, Adobe’s acquisition of creative portfolio platform Behance in 2012 has led to the adoption of a three-pronged model. Now, when the brand needs to bring in extra help on bigger projects or strategy conundrums, it can quickly tap into the global community of more than 10 million freelancers housed on Behance.
This is augmented by the stream of competitions it runs via the platform throughout the year, such as the Design Achievement Awards for young creators.
“[Behance] has really accelerated our ability to source great talent on a regular basis because all the people are there in one spot,” she said. “There’s a lot of passion for Behance as people who are creatives love Behance. We have just really leveraged it. I think we've always been really good at [engaging] the creative community – now we just have scale."
'An unusual situation'
Additionally, Lewnes has found that Behance users gravitate towards Adobe’s projects thanks to its reputation as a professional creative’s backbone (its Creative Cloud software – including Premiere, InDesign and, of course, Photoshop – are all viewed as industry standard tools).
And it’s the same story with Lewnes’ in-house division, according to the marketer. The argument against in-housing tends to lean on the belief that creative minds work best when challenged by multiple briefs across multiple brands – put simply, they get bored and lackadaisical in-house, especially if they’re building a portfolio.
That case does not apply to Adobe, Lewnes contends.
“We're able to attract really good creative talent because we're the company that they turn to every single day for their jobs,” she said. “They love Adobe and they get access to a lot of the software early on. It’s like a playground for them.
"I think it’s the same on the digital marketing side because if you're a web analyst, you want to work at Adobe because we have great tech. We are in an unusual situation in terms of being able to attract really, really high-end talent in those two areas.”
Nevertheless, Lewnes, the long-serving chief marketing officer of a largely investor-friendly company, comes up against the same challenges as most. She has to set the bar for talent high, for and the unrelenting need for more digital content, as well as an agile digital content team, has led her to push for more fluid workflows with agencies. The brand’s native integration on the course of the PGA Tour, for instance, was pitched to her by WPP’s Wavemaker but produced with a mix of in-house and hired talent.
“These mashups are the way people work together now,” she said. “I don't think you'll find a lot of clients who [say], ‘I have an agency of record and I only work with this agency of record’ because there's so much specialty and expertise that's out there.
"These mashups are just a part of a new way that people are advertising.”
Pivot to mobile
Lewnes has built up what she dubs a “production house” in order to service the need for more and more video – an area of substantial investment for Adobe’s marketing department given its need to educate and not just “entertain (because "people don't want 30-second spots, at least in our category, that are content-free – they want to learn something about our products”).
Search still receives a hefty portion of the company’s ad spend, while Lewnes has her sights set on upping her mobile game going forward.
“Mobile is an area where we're really going to double down because we have a lot of mobile applications – a lot of people who are coming into the Adobe product family are coming from phones,” she said. “So, we are going to pivot and try and figure out how to do much more effective mobile advertising, because that's an area where I think we as an industry have not really hit the market.”
The company’s implementation of Premiere Rush, its new, easy-to-use video editing software, will allow Lewnes to test out her team’s capabilities in both mobile and harnessing the community. The first B2C push for the latest edition to Creative Cloud was created by GS&P but actually puts its community members in a starring role as “influencers”. Additionally, Rush’s mobile qualities will see the campaign come to life on that platform more than any other Adobe platform has done in the past.
Despite these marketing pivots, which evolve alongside the wider company’s shift to a subscription-based model, Lewnes believes it’s the creative community that protects and grounds the essence of ‘Brand Adobe’ throughout its numerous spirals of mergers and acquisitions.
“We're a software company and product is king here, but I think [it’s about] ... how you encourage and help your community be successful with your products, how you connect them to one another. I think those have always been kind of the hallmarks of Adobe.
“I think we're the good guys. We really are a very special company in that regard."
Ann Lewnes spoke to The Drum at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas.