Four Marketing Compliance Data Points to Measure in the Creative Process

by Mike Puterbaugh

16 May 2019

Depending on your industry and type of creative content you produce, there is a wide range of marketing compliance issues that must be accounted for during the production process including disclosures, copyright and trademark considerations, regulatory compliance, and stakeholder involvement.

Executing a well-rounded marketing compliance program helps to:

  • Maintain brand identity and consistency across channels
  • Safeguard against introducing false or misleading claims to consumers
  • Maintain intellectual property for both your team and your clients/partners

Yet, tracking compliance on the ground, in daily tasks, gets complicated fast, especially when you’re managing multiple projects simultaneously.

Add in rapid campaigns with multiple partners and content distribution through many digital channels, and you quickly end up with too many content types and collaborators to try to monitor for risk via manual oversight.

However, demonstrating this compliance doesn’t have to be a burden on your team. In fact, the tools you use should provide this information to you. If not, you might be using the wrong tools.

Here are four types of compliance data your creative production team should be tracking on a regular basis to contribute to your marketing compliance needs:

1. Decision and Approval Timelines

One of the major facets of marketing compliance (both internally and externally mandated)  is the ability to prove that the right people saw creative content the right time in the creative production process.

Your creative team has come up with a great ad campaign - but has your legal team signed off? If not, have they documented why?  daria-nepriakhina-474036-unsplash

The real challenge: You should also be able to prove that there was a formal sign-off (or rejection) every time a decision was made. Decisions can be many things, such as approvals, rejections, or approvals with stipulations. Simply showing that a final review occurred isn’t enough.

Having a clear timeline of reviews and approvals, at every stage of the creative production lifecycle,

If a formal compliance certification is requested, you should be able to extract approval and review audit trails to answer:

  • Was input was gathered from the right people?
  • At what point in time were those input decisions made - and why?
  • What were the outcomes of those decisions?
  • Was feedback acted upon in final creative output?
  • If revisions were required, did the next iteration go through the same approval process?
  • For digital assets, were proper disclaimers included as part of the content creation for consumers to easily understand?
  • Are brand partnerships properly disclosed with sign off by all parties?
  • For physical products, are disclaimers incorporated into product labeling and packaging?

Instead of trying to track this information as you go, or worse, track it down after the fact, we recommend having audit trail capabilities baked into in the same environment in which you’re facilitating review and approval processes.

This means getting out of email chains and digital file sharing and using a system that can track creative content access, feedback, and decisions.   

2. Access Control Data

It’s important to prove who signed off on content and campaigns, but often proving who doesn’t have access is just as important to a strong marketing compliance program.

The average creative team is juggling multiple campaigns simultaneously. In fact, in our recent creative marketing survey, 60% of teams were managing four (4) or more creative projects weekly.

If this sounds like your situation, you’ll want to ensure that teams, reviewers, and decision makers for each project only have access to the content they need to see.

This is especially important in agency-client relationships.  A stakeholder from one brand certainly shouldn’t be able to access the creative files your team has produced for another brand. A freelance designer working on one asset might only need access to specific brand guidelines, not an entire campaign brief, especially if it contains sensitive pre-release information or intellectual property.

A creative review and approval system can help implement control over content access via:

  • Defined and measured user roles
    When it comes to content access, you’ll want to delineate who can access source files, who can upload files for review, and who has commenting and approval rights, and be able to track the actions of each user with accurate timestamps.

    For example, using an online proofing system with defined user roles allows you to set access levels for different stakeholders and content types for tailored control over content access, and demonstrate who has access when needed.
  • Reviewer-only access
    Bridging the gap between internal and external review often goes too far. Frequently, there’s no easy way to give reviewers access to content for input without giving them access to the entire set of project files - a compliance risk waiting to happen.

    It’s preferred to have the ability to set limits for external reviewer rights in the same system you’re using for internal creative production, to minimize the number of systems required for administration.
  • Stage-based reviews and approvals
    Automated review workflows can control which users see content at each stage of production.

    This tiered review system helps move projects along, but can also be configured to ensure that further review or modifications only happen after previous approvals have been implemented and recorded.

Compliance is a delicate balance between giving team members, stakeholders, and partners access to the information they need to be productive, while also protecting your and your clients’ creative assets, company information and legal standing.

Putting automated controls in place for content access is a must for automating marketing compliance.

3. Data from Content Distribution Channels

Even if your internal processes are locked in place, content today has legs far beyond your creative team once it’s shared in the digital content ecosystem. Compliance around these environments in which content is shared is just as important as the content production steps themselves.

It’s fairly common today for AI tools to be used across a variety of channels to ensure campaigns reach the most high-impact audiences. A typical campaign may cross multiple systems, websites, geolocation tools, algorithms, content formats, and so on.

In all these channels, content is colliding with personal consumer data, -often improperly handled or connected to unclear messaging. The FTC is cracking down on influencer marketing claims, and it’s no secret that social media platforms are collecting personal data through connected third-party brand apps.

If your brand, or your clients’ brands, rely on these types of channels to get your message out, it’s easy to get caught up in a compliance quagmire by proxy.

Brand managers should understand the channels in which marketing content be distributed and how those distribution channels align with a brand’s compliance standards. They should make considerations like:

  • Do smart-targeting AI tools gather consumer data for use in campaign targeting? If so, how much and to what degree? Can consumers or ad viewers opt out?
  • Are targeted ads approved for all possible viewing scenarios and algorithms?
  • Are marketing claims created to be aligned with the regulations for each distribution channel?
  • How are campaign and content analytics gathered, extract, and shared across platforms, and who has access to those analytics?

4. Project Archival & Storage Structures

Once a project or campaign has been wrapped up, you’ll want to ensure proper long-term archival of all content file types align with federal and industry governance standards, as well. That typically means combining files from my different systems or archiving them within your creative production system.  

It can also mean creating a hardcopy printout of the review process for safe-keeping or porting them out of your proofing solution into a long-term data archive.samuel-zeller-118195-unsplash

Archiving is often the last thing on the minds of a creative team that has just expended hours and hours of effort getting campaigns and creative out the door.

For complete audit-readiness, you’ll want to be able to quickly reference the full scope of past creative campaigns, including timestamps, comments, audit trails, and more.

When you’re approaching the project archiving stage, consider:

  • Do project archives store the entire timeline of content modification and access in addition to content files?
  • Have we captured all communication threads around marketing content?
  • Are you capturing and storing unstructured data-like social media and server data?
  • Are project files organized according to the right retention schedules?
  • Are archives stored securely and limited in access?
  • Can data and files be accessed and reviewed quickly in the case of an audit or compliance breach?

In Conclusion

Staying on top of marketing compliance means implementing control across your collaboration processes, access, and long-term archival strategy for all media types.

Instead of trying to monitor tasks manually, a modern creative production system can help ease the burden of compliance oversight.

For example, modern enterprise-ready online proofing systems can capture many of these compliance data points automatically by capturing comments, markups, controlled review workflows, timestamp, etc., all essential requirements for the common audit trail.

By automatically collecting this data through the project lifecycle, you’ll save time trying to substantiate the validity of your content review process and decision-making steps, before, during and after content production.

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