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Inside Movember’s Creative Studio with Emily Ralfs, Global Creative Services Manager

04 Jan 00:00 By Vicki Anne

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No doubt, you’ve heard about Movember. If not, here’s a quick update:

Every year, in November, men (or Mo Bros) around the world attempt their best Ron Burgundy impression and grow a moustache to raise awareness for men’s health issues.

What began with 30 guys in 2003, has grown into a 6.6-million-strong global phenomenon. In moustache terms, that’s like a 15-year-old’s scraggly first attempt blossoming into a fully-fledged Tom Selleck overnight.

The movement was founded by Travis Garone to help men talk about important health issues, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and men’s suicide. So far, it’s raised an estimated $1.16 billion AUD world-wide. 

It’s a massive global organisation, with content translated into multiple languages and offices on four continents. While it’s best known for the annual November moustache challenge, Movember operates year-round, pumping out a tremendous amount of creativity to support its myriad campaigns. 

Behind this amazing output, there’s a very talented in-house team, led by the latest guest on our new podcast, the Creative Studio Insider.

In episode 2, Emily Ralfs, Global Creative Services Manager at Movember, tells us about the challenges of managing a creative studio across a massive global brand.

Here’s what she told us…


Running a Massive Global Campaign During a Pandemic

Normally, Movember would run creative with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. However, the pandemic hasn’t allowed that this year.

Instead, Emily’s team has had to adapt. That’s meant staying abreast of the coronavirus situation in many different markets, while still producing high-quality, adaptable content.

“We didn't know what was going to hit once Movember started, and we didn't know what the different restrictions would be on all the different products that we offer,” says Emily.

“If you wanted to ‘Mo Your Own Way’, that's great, but you might not necessarily be allowed outside to do that!”

For example, someone who ran 60 kms to raise money for charity last year, might be doing so on a treadmill in 2020. Emily says that her team had to stay fluid in order to react to these new challenges.

And it wasn’t just the pandemic that altered the way Movember operated. Other social issues, including the Black Lives Matter movement and the Australian bush fires, also had a big impact on things.

“It was really challenging,” says Emily. “We needed to be really sensitive across the board because it affects people in different ways.”


The Day-to-Day and Bringing the Creative in House

Beyond the big campaigns, so much work goes into maintaining the Movember brand. And Emily’s team is responsible for most of the day-to-day work that has made it such a recognisable name.

That involves lots of internal communications, social ads, Instagram carousels, animated work, website landing pages, and infographics, according to Emily.

On top of the day-to-day, Emily oversees a number of larger, ongoing projects in support of Movember’s programmatic area.

“The work that we're doing at the moment is creating sub-brands for the programmatic area. So, they fall out of the master brand of Movember. There are brand guidelines and toolkits and all that sort of work.”

Over the last 12 months, Emily’s role has also focussed on streamlining Movember’s creative output. For the most part, that’s meant bringing a lot of the work in-house, instead of using external providers.

“I think it's good to have those conversations and respond to one brief rather than five briefs that are similar. Reining it in and streamlining it has been really successful this year,” says Emily.

This switch has not only improved return of investment, but it’s also allowed Movember to flourish creatively while making use of in-house capacity. “We've produced our best work – it's really exciting.”


Working Global with a Local Lens

Emily works closely with her two direct reports, a senior designer and a senior writer, while liaising with other creative teams all across the world. It’s a huge job that requires a great deal of attention to detail, as such, the process has been centralized.

In order to manage project workflow efficiently, the creative is usually produced by a single stakeholder, before being rolled out to local teams.

“If we're addressing a global brief, like World Suicide Prevention Day, or Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, there’ll be one stakeholder who manages that process, and then they share the work back with the other stakeholders,” says Emily.

Once the core brief is signed off, tweaks that need to be made can be done on a local level. Photography, for example, is one aspect of a campaign that needs to reflect regional norms.

“You obviously don't want snow in January in an Australian campaign!” says Emily.


The Right Tools Supported by The Human Touch

With offices in Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Singapore, collaborating remotely is already a major part of the Movember way of working. “We use Asana at Movember – we just couldn't live without it. It connects us globally,” says Emily.

A “one-stop shop”, it gives Emily an overview of everything that’s going on with her team. She can track hours, run reports, and keep complete visibility over the whole project pipeline.

While software is important, Emily is also a big believer in human contact. For her, that means constant interaction with her team, no matter where they are in the world.

In fact, contact is vital to her role, which she says is all about people.

“I think creative service management is a lot to do with managing people and bringing out the best in them. Where are these people going to be in 12 months’ time? How do they work with newcomers? Are they hungry? If they're not, why aren’t they hungry anymore?”


Slowing Down, Making Time 

Like most creative studio managers, Emily’s biggest challenge is time – or rather, a lack of it. 

“I think often everyone's flying by the seat of their pants, and it’s not always the best way to operate – it's certainly not sustainable,” she says.

“If we've got time, we can unpack things, or we can plan projects, and we can really put that experience into play.”

In a typically fast-paced environment, like an in-house studio, slowing things down isn’t always easy. However, that’s exactly what Emily thinks she needs to do to improve her output in the future.

“I think it's almost your responsibility to ask that and be brave enough to ask why, and really unpack what you're doing, and see if there's a more effective way to operate.”


Want to hear more from Emily? Check out the full episode here.