Resolving Brand Management Issues

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Adtool, a high technology start-up company backed by customers that include Shell, Daimler, The Royal Mail, Smart Cars and Chrysler and Jeep, is launching a radical new solution that allows marketing departments to protect their brand integrity and slash production costs for artwork. Adtool automates the creation and production of tailored branded artwork in a matter of minutes, replacing a costly traditional production cycle. Typically Adtool solutions are in the region of £100 000 covering both consultancy and delivery.

Managing a Global brand such as Shell’s is an immense challenge. Incorporating the brand management techniques into recruitment advertising spanning over 119,000 employees in more than 145 countries had created a situation of long lead times in order to produce creative material.

As an innovative and forward thinking company Shell was keen to introduce new technology and best practice. Outside of the physical production cost and the time consuming approvals involved, Shell did not want to be seen as just enforcers of the brand but wanted to engender an environment in which employees found brand guidelines easy to adhere to but also flexible.

Responsibility for managing the development and implementation of this project in Shell fell to Sarah Miles, Global Brand and Communications manager at Shell People Services, Shell’s internal HR provider. “It was a pressurised environment with short turnaround times, very real copy deadlines coupled with heavy typesetting costs. We also wanted to get more value out of our retained agencies by focusing on creating compelling content opposed to mechanical issues of the delivery and creation of artwork.”

It was in this context that Shell set out to realise a goal where hundreds of staff could have access to an easy to use self-service system that would deliver the artwork for highly localised recruitment adverts in a matter of minutes that met the global corporate look and feel guidelines. Equally this system had to be flexible enough to provide support for Shell’s ongoing recruitment campaigns across the Globe with tailored material that could range from an advert that welcomes new employees at Shell to ordering exhibition stands for attending recruitment fairs and university ‘Milk Rounds’.


Technology was clearly part of the solution Shell needed, and through a browser Adtool offered templates to create and deliver personalized artwork.

Commercially it also represented an attractive solution since it’s an internet based application that slots straight onto desktop PCs that needed minimal end-user training and no major systems integration or investment in additional servers. But in terms of cost savings it was the ability to create high resolution adverts directly on the system - shortcutting entirely the traditional typesetting and production work done by agencies and the associated 75% production cost saving that really appealed to the marketing team at Shell People Services.

Following initial discussions between the team at Adtool and the team at Shell People Services the decision to develop the SPS creation tool was made. Following initial consultancy to develop the right workflow patterns, including generating artwork approval, the service went live in December 2003 and some 300 employees now use it directly in 67 countries.    


Gaining buy in from Shell’s global agency JWT Specialise Communications was an early priority, largely because Shell realised the value of working with creative agencies in delivering campaigns. This was helped by the fact that Adtool worked well with any Apple Macintosh running version 6 of its operating system and a Safari browser.

Once a range of artwork was put on Adtool, all Shell had to do was train the trainer in a series of road shows. At present around 26 separate templates are available as the basis of all recruitment ads, with each advert being created within the predefined brand guidelines from the template to fit whatever media space had been booked. Adding new users is as simple as designating a new password and adding the URL address to a PC.

“For a new person logging on it takes about 10 minutes before they create their first advert, which theoretically could appear in print just 48 hours later,” Miles enthused. “In terms of media buying there are a couple of huge benefits we’re now able to take advantage of. The first is that we now have far better visibility of the media we work with on a regular basis and that’s going to mean we can now look at introducing discounted media buying based on the volume of business we do with media partners. Secondly with artwork production cut from around ten days to minutes it’s going to be practical to take advantage of last minute spot media offers. If someone called up with a last-minute offer it was sometimes difficult to take advantage of it, now it’s easy and that’s an important edge.”

The site has already expanded in range to allow managers access to a far wider range of collateral. A particular strength has been the development of a very customised and personable approach in areas such as graduate recruitment. Here a wide library of material can be held for Shell recruitment communications - including ‘Milk-round’ style exhibition stands, postcards and/or e-cards for invitations, as well as other collateral to support recruitment initiatives.

Positive Future

In effect Shell has begun the task of delivering a powerful knowledge base across the company. The initial Adtool project quickly served to crystallise what the technology can deliver and with the business case made, an internal campaign is underway to drive more traffic through the Shell People Services creation tool.

As too are plans to extend the system’s productivity with links into procurement.

Miles concludes, “The short term cost savings have been great because they gave the project a very fast ROI, however it’s what this gives us the base to achieve that’s really exciting in two areas. First is the guarantee of Global brand consistency and feedback from users is that response to adverts has improved using the creation tool. The second area is the ability to be more analytic in our business because relatively mundane and routine tasks are effectively automated now. Given the Global nature of our business it’s possible that smarter media deals will potentially recoup a great deal more money in the future.”

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Charlie Jackson
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