Skew’s Oliver Dyer on giving creatives a voice through the ‘Not Just Colouring In’ survey

“It was born from conversations with people across the industry in creative roles – and a sense of frustration!”: Skew’s Oliver Dyer on what to expect from his creative study.

Oliver, always great to catch up. We’re chatting because the deadline for creatives in the industry to get involved in your ‘Not Just Colouring In’ survey is fast approaching: March 24th. Where did the appetite to launch this survey come from?
It was born out of conversations with people across the industry in creative roles – and a sense of frustration! It was actually the conversations you and I had that kicked it off, and my enthusiasm for the conference you guys were planning. And then being frustrated with why that wasn’t happening.

Yes. And to fill people in, the nutshell of that was that we planned a conference for creatives in the industry, and while many thought it sounded like a good idea, it didn’t end up happening as getting people to commit to being in the room was tricky.
Yes, there was clearly a great enthusiasm for some way of getting the creative community in licensing together, and I wanted to try and find an answer as to how we do that. I had a bunch of roundtables with people over the winter months last year and the same frustrations kept coming up.

“Creative roles are not really being understood in other parts of organisations.”

Can you give us an example?
Things like creative roles not really being understood in other parts of organisations. That came up again and again. I’ve heard stories of really quite senior creatives having to do presentations to different departments so that they understand the purpose of the creative roles – and sometimes more than once to the same people! That can be really frustrating, especially when you consider what our industry is – it’s an industry driven by creative. For this to keep coming up is pretty mind-blowing.

So this survey is to gather insights from the creative community about how the industry can better serve them – and celebrate them?
The survey was devised to replicate the conversations I was having at the roundtable. It was to sense check if it was just us, or whether these thoughts and frustrations were shared by creatives across the wider industry. Let’s cast the net wider to include creatives of all levels, across licensors, licensees and retailers. Even brand teams, marketing teams, product development… And that includes people that haven’t had a creative education, but are in a creative role.

It will also help us assess how to bring this part of the industry together; whether that’s an annual drinks event or something more structured. Let’s find out what that might be.

Without revealing the results of this survey early, what do you think are some of the reasons for the frustrations that creatives have in the licensing industry?
This is the hill I’m going to die on… It’s the licensing industry, the clue’s in the name! That tells you all that you need to know. That’s the way the industry’s structured. Commercial set the targets, sales have to meet the targets and then there’s creatives… Well, if you compare it to any other industry – video games, fashion, film – that relationship is more balanced; if not flipped entirely.

“We as a discipline could have more skin in the game when it comes to the success, or failure, of different initiatives.”

Everybody within the movie industry is focused on delivering movies to fans and, of course, there’s more emphasis on the creative talent – but all of the components of that industry are seen to share the same values and goals. In licensing, all of the money flows to sales so that’s where the power is within organisations.

And I should stress, this isn’t about pitting different functions against each other. It’s not on any other department to push for this kind of change. It’s my experience, across the board, that creative teams don’t do enough to put their necks on the line and hold themselves to account. We as a discipline – whether that’s agencies, in-house teams, whatever level – could have more skin in the game when it comes to the success, or failure, of different initiatives.

If creatives want a seat at the table, they’ve got to be prepared to hold themselves to the same level of scrutiny as commercial teams around the success of their work.
Yes, but there’s not been a push to get effective metrics, either at a brief level or following up after significant pieces of creative have landed to see what worked, what didn’t work, or why. It’s engrained as part of the culture. If creatives want to have more parity with other parts of the business, we need to make the case for the creative process being included in the assessment of where profits are coming from.

That’s why I think what you’re doing with the survey, and your general approach to all of this is so exciting. It’s about ensuring the creative part of the industry takes itself seriously, which is key to hopefully alleviating some of the frustrations you’re hearing about through the survey.
One thing we are seeing from the survey is a strong interest in sharing knowledge. One thing I’ve always found great about The Children’s Media Conference is the cross-company generosity and candid sharing that people display there. It’s amazing, and something we’d like to explore following the survey, because there’s no forum like that for creatives in our industry at the moment.

“We want to create an event that creatives actually want to be at.”

If, at the very least, it just results in drinks a few times a year, it will be a creatives-only safe space for people to get together in an inspiring environment to put the world to rights.

Sounds great. And how are you revealing the results of this survey?
We’ve already exceeded our target for responses, but the survey is remaining open until March 24th. Then we’re hosting an event on April 24th in central London venue. We’re going to collate all the results, turn it into a brief engaging presentation, highlighting the most surprising results. Everyone that’s filled in the survey will get a copy of the results and after the event we’ll circulate the results to everyone in the industry.

Amazing. We’ll keep an eye out for that. I bet you’re excited to open this can!
I’m terrified! I’m a massive introvert. And actually, one of the things I was trying to figure out is why creatives aren’t all getting together at one of the big trade shows and I just don’t think they suit a creative mentality. Creatives aren’t going there to do research; most are looking elsewhere to bring new ideas into the industry. We want to create an event that creatives actually want to be at. We want it to be something they feel totally comfortable with.

Oliver, huge thanks again for taking time out to chat – and congrats on this initiative. I’m looking forward to seeing the results. And for anyone yet to take part – head to or to get involved.

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