Episode 5

The secret to running 100+ successful luxury brand campaigns in a year

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In this episode, we chat with Nicole D'Anna Long, the Director of Creative Services for Elizabeth Arden, a brand under Revlon. Nicole shares her insights on creative operations, from building and scaling teams to managing complex projects. She speaks about:

  • The unique challenges and rewards for working in creative operations for different types of mass market brands like Elf Cosmetics and Elizabeth Arden. 
  • Leading creative projects and producing high-quality creative output that aligns to business goals. 
  • Finally, she shares her insights into how creative teams can become more efficient and effective by adapting to new technologies. 

Nicole D'Anna Long
Director, Creative Services
Arjita K
Director, Growth and Business
Development, Artwork Flow


Arjita: Hey,  Nicole. Welcome to the Artworkflow Podcast, Creative Operations Podcast by Artworkflow. Thank you for taking out the time today. I, you know, it's been a while since we met. I met you last in May and you know, I've been looking forward to doing this for a really long time. For our listeners here, Nicole leads the Creative Operations for Revlon. I would, you know, love for you to introduce yourself, Nicole.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Hi everyone. So my name is Nicole Deanna Long. And like Arjita said, I am the Director of Creative Services for the Elizabeth Arden brand under Revlon. So what I do is, I mean, should I go into, should I go into what I do? Okay. So basically we have an internal set of copywriters, graphic designers, we do production and post-production. So we have a fully staffed team to take care of all of our creative from conception all the way through delivery.

Arjita: Great. Thank you for taking out the time, Nicole. And I really look forward to having this conversation with you and, you know, unraveling what it entails to do creative ops at such a large scale as a brand like Revlon. So, Nicole, could you describe what creative services entail, especially in a giant brand like Revlon that, you know, most females on earth would be?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Me too.

Arjita: For our listeners who might not be familiar with the term. Like just break down your day to day what the job is like.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, no problem. So we do 360 campaigns, which basically means that we take care of, you know, everything that has to do with the advertising, any kind of consumer facing assets. So when you go into a store, you know, and you see things at the point of sale, anything that's online, any of their videos, social media, we handle all of that. And we do that. When I say from conception all the way through delivery 

So that means we have a team of art directors who are actually brainstorming all of the creative along with the global marketing team. And then we work with the marketing team to produce. So we actually do all of the shoots. Like I said, we have copywriters and graphic designers who create the assets based on what we shoot. And then we have...

production team who does all of the planning, managing of the shoots. We have a post production team who does all of the retouching. And then we even have like a mechanical production team, which they kind of translate the assets and they deliver them to all of the different markets throughout the globe since we're a global company. So that is what we're doing day to day. It's a lot and we're a small team. So for the scale of what we do, you know, we're handling a bunch of projects at a time. So, so yeah, we, we get a lot done.

Arjita: Great. I mean, that's a lot of different, you have so many different kinds of media that you're handling in your portfolio. And it's a varied variety of different kinds of assets, different briefs, different analysis that has to go into the brand. So that sounds definitely like you have a lot on your plate. So why don't you tell us a little bit more about how you get this work done? Do you have a big team in-house? Do you have a lot of agencies? And how do you like to manage this entire shebang?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah. So we do a majority of our work in-house. There are a lot of things that we aren't capable of doing in-house just because we don't have the resources, because we are working at such a large scale. So for instance, we have an in-house video team, but they aren't able to handle all of the work that we have. So then we have to also get an out-of-house video editing team to help us do some of the work.

But really we try to do as much as we can in-house. There are occasions that the global marketing team will want to get their biggest launch of the year done with an external agency. So we will still continue to work with the agency and with marketing, just in developing the concepts and things like that. But like I said, mainly we're doing everything in-house and the team is small. It's not...

very big. I mean, there's, I would say less than 30 of us doing all of the things that I described. So it's, you know, we have a team of freelancers. And it's, everybody multi-tasks and does a lot of work. So yeah, so I mean, I think it's creative, it's very common for the teams to be majority freelance. That's what I've come across.

And, you know, what we have to do is just source as needed. So with our team, we really like for the freelancers to be part of our team. So I don't hire people for short-term things. It's always basically I'm, I know that I have, you know, say a need in graphic design. So I need to bring another one on for an extended period. So yeah, so, so we do try and manage as much as we possibly can in-house.

Arjita: Yeah, I'm assuming that the really nice office with the windows looking to the Hudson really helped with all the creative process.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Oh, yeah, you came to the office. Yeah, we just moved into a smaller office because we have, you know, a lot of the team. The office that you came to is the smaller office. You know, we're still working. We're only on a hybrid schedule. A lot of the roles in the company are remote. So, you know, it's been an adjustment for everybody. But yes, that new office we love.

Arjita: Come on. It was such an experience walking into your office because I've only seen those kinds of glass walled offices and I guess and then actually you can look across the Hudson to Brooklyn and it's a really nice, interesting experience.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, it's beautiful, it's a beautiful office. It has, you know, full views of the city. We love that. I think it's something we take for granted probably because we're seeing it every day. But yeah, it's very nice.

Arjita: Yeah, interesting. So Nicole, I wanted to understand more. So you've had a meteoric rise in Revlon. You know, you started as a senior manager and now you, you know, manage the entire, you know, creative services, you're the director of creative services. So, you know, how has your, how have your responsibilities and your vision changed as you, you know, climb this ladder?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, so I think, you know, when I had come to Revlon initially, I came in like a senior project manager. And at that point, Elizabeth Arden had just been bought by Revlon. And we were really just trying to get our footing as a creative agency. So it was a lot different than what I'm doing right now. I think it took a lot of time for me and the global marketing team likes to establish a lot of the processes that we have in place today. And so, you know, we've gone through a lot of changes. We've gone through different creative directors. And I think, you know, at one point when the last creative director left, it was just me on my own, which was how I ended up moving up to the director level and, you know, ended up managing the whole team. 

But it's, you know, it has changed a lot. I think when I had first started, my responsibilities were much more basic, obviously, than what they are now. I was kind of managing, um, these like smaller projects and day-to-day tasks. And we weren't really taking on, um, some of these like bigger launches like we're doing now. Um, and at some point during the pandemic, the general manager that we had at the time kind of wanted us to.

Take as much as possible in-house. And she transferred a lot of her external agency budget in-house so that we could grow the team at Red House, is the name of the agency, so that we could grow the team at Red House. And I think since then, it's been really great because I have, you know, whereas before I was doing more day-to-day management of smaller projects, now, you know, I have a project manager who works under me. We've kind of made all of the processes so that people can work.

independently and in that way we've been able to scale up. And so, you know, now we're doing between 20 and 30 launches a year. Yeah, and, you know, also managing all of those things that I described to you, all of the, you know, translations and things like that for all of the other global regions and the retailers. So it's really just, it keeps growing, which is great. Elizabeth Arden does

you know, it's always, I think with creative operations, I feel like my job, my main job here has always been to just kind of look at what the environment is and what the needs are of the team and just adjust constantly. So I'm always looking for ways to really make everything just much more streamlined, you know, save everybody time, save people money.

save everybody's energy, make things easier for us and for all of the partners that we're working with as well. So that is like what my day to day is right now is kind of just an evolving process, I feel like.

Arjita: Yeah, so talking about processes, Nicole, any particular tools or technologies or processes that have been completely groundbreaking for you that has really helped you reach some level of efficiency in your teams and your processes. What is it that you would say that for you like that helped you scale up your vertical and your teams massively anything like that?

Nicole D'Anna Long: So I think it's hard. We've had this conversation many times. It's difficult for me to find a kind of a platform that encompasses everything that I feel like I need for my team. So I use a lot of different things, which is unfortunate. But, you know, we use, I think before we were using Basecamp, I felt like Basecamp is always like a nice platform to use.

For me, for planning, I love to do things in a Gantt format when I'm creating timelines. So that's something that I always use. I just, it's, I've never really been able to find something that, you know, had all of the things that I need. Because I like, you know, process wise, I would love for us to be able to do, you know, upload our concept documents. To have all of our timelines, to have, you know, be able to communicate with marketing, to have time tracking, to have everything in a single place. And so it's very hard to find that. So no, to me, I have not been able to find anything yet that has been groundbreaking like that. Obviously, our workflow has been the closest to what I need. So, we're all trying.

Arjita: We are trying Nicole, we are trying really hard and one day hopefully we'll get there. Interesting.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so that is challenging for me, and that's something that I also do. I meet with people regularly, and I'm always looking for different platforms that I feel could help us make things easier, make our lives easier. Yes, yeah.

Arjita: Interesting. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, there is so much in this entire creative process, like getting a product or even just a campaign from conceptualization to actually in the market, there are so many different moving parts in the process and madness.

Nicole D'Anna Long: So many, yeah. It's, I mean, I've shared with you some of our final documents. They can be hundreds of pages long and we're just creating a guideline for the globe. There's still work to be done after that. And it often takes us almost a year or so, like a large launch, so what we call a gold launch, which is a global launch that, you know, has a lot of assets that we have a high budget for. Those can take us about like nine months to do.

So it's so much work that goes into it. There are so many little intricacies and things like that. And so it's difficult to find something that really takes all of that into account. And I also think that everybody works differently. So it's, you know, it's hard unless you're having a platform developed specifically for your company. I think there's always going to be like little things missing.

Arjita:So Nicole, how do you find the right resource for the right project? How do you organize that bit? Does a brief come to you and then you immediately get someone's name in mind that, okay, this person would be good for this job or how do you, and you have to find a new resource. How do you go about that?

Nicole D'Anna Long: So we have, we have low turnover with our freelancers. So many of them have been with us for years. And so when I'm getting briefed on a project, I do the planning far in advance. And so I have a list of all the projects that are coming down the pipeline. And because I've been working with the same company for so long, it's been five years at this point, I'm aware of what is going to be in the project. I won't know the details about it. I won't know any of the clinical results. I won't know some of the research that's gone into the project, but I'll know in general what the deliverables will be. And so within our team, we've built it so that we have an art director who handles skincare, an art director who handles promotions, an art director who handles fragrance and color. And then we have one who's kind of like shifts between all of them to cover when some of the other ones are too busy.

So that's generally how I do it. Same thing with the copywriters. I will have copywriters who mainly handle skincare, copywriters who mainly handle promotions and fragrance. And so that's the way that we do it. When I am resourcing new people, we do two things. One is I have somebody that I work with within Red House who goes out to all of the different agencies. We put together a job description, a general description of what we need. I don't do it.

Like I said, on a project by project basis, I do it on an overall position basis. Um, so they will go out to a bunch of different agencies and recruit, but I also like to, I mean, you've probably seen it before. I like to go out on LinkedIn and see if, you know, it gets passed around and then have people come to me and then I will meet with them directly as well. Um, so those are the different ways that I find people, but it's, you know, generally, depending on the position, I like to look at people's books and just see if their work is relevant to what we're doing at the current time. I think, you know, like things have drastically shifted to be very digital heavy recently. So I'm always mainly looking for people who have a lot of digital experience. Yeah.

Arjita: Interesting. And so any recent project that you would like to share with our listeners that you are incredibly proud of or was very challenging, but you and your team didn't anyway, anything like that. And I know because as I shared with you earlier when we met that Elizabeth Erdin was a very, I have very fond memories because I bought a kit for my mom when it was my first in 2015. So I know that you know there are great campaigns that the brand does. I still have that bag with me, like a little pouch thing. So I'm sure you know there must be incredible campaigns that you guys have delivered. Anything like that you would want to share.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, I mean, I love that. We always hear stories like that. I always hear stories like that from people when I say that I work for Elizabeth Arden because it seems like it's kind of, you know, like, oh, my mom wore that or like my grandma wore that perfume or something like that, which I think is really cute. And it's also like, you know, we play up the heritage of the brand very much. So it's nice to hear that from people.

But yeah, I mean, we're very proud of all the work that we've done. I think you can really look at kind of the evolution of the brand and see, like, since I've been involved since about 2000, I guess, 2018, it has really shifted the last general manager that we had. She really wanted to modernize the brand. So you can see that in the creativity that things have had you know, much more of a clean, modern aesthetic. So, I mean, I'm, I think all of the work that we do is really beautiful. I'm trying to think of one that we've done recently, we work so far in advance, I don't want to talk about anything that has not launched yet. But I think, I think, you know, one example of like our capsules, which are like, they're these little singles that use a kind of capsule that have skincare serums in them. And we do a bunch of launches for them every year. We do like a couple of re supports, try and get the word out about all of the different ones and all of the different things they do for the skin. And I think those always come out really beautiful because they have all of these different, you know, pastel color palettes and the product is really pretty to shoot and things like that. So if you look up targeted solutions that we love doing.

Arjita: Okay.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Those big skincare projects.

Arjita: I'm going to look up that campaign, that particular product.

Nicole D'Anna Long : Yeah, look it up. Yeah.

Arjita: Great. So Nicole, you were at Elf Cosmetics and now you're at Revlon. Any differences in terms of approaches in the context of creative and brand operations? How are companies and brands different when it comes to creative operations in the cosmetic space?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, I think so. I was only at Elf for about a year before I came to Revlon, but it was an amazing experience working there. They, you know, it was similar to Revlon. They had just opened this New York creative office and so they were kind of building up their creative team. But I think I definitely see the differences between what I was doing there and what I do here because, you know, it's the consumer, the demographic of the consumer has a lot to do with the creative that gets done. So Elf has a lower price point. Their demographic is very young. 

So the creative is very young and they are very digital based. Even though they have a large presence in stores, I think when I was there, I found that most of the things that we did were digital. Whereas with Elizabeth Arden at Revlon, they are luxury and so they have a much higher price point and an older consumer. So it's like the difference between a teenage consumer and somebody who is in their 30s, you know? And so they were more point of sale based, but now it's definitely shifting to digital. We do much more video and things like that. But yeah, it was an adjustment to come to Revlon and see how much print we actually did and how much, you know, of the business was done in store. I wasn't used to that at all. But yeah, I think, you know, we do a lot of travel retail that's never gonna go away. The, you know, the assets that are in airports and things like that. And I think I'm kind of like some of the Asian countries, they have a really big in-store presence. They do a lot of pop-ups and things like that. So like I said, I don't think that stuff will ever go away. But...

Definitely the difference was just, you know, the younger, more digital based consumer versus the older consumer. So, yeah.

Arjita: Yeah, so it's, you know, it's sort of interesting that, you know, when the consumer is more young and you're targeting a lower price point, the large part of creative ops will be, you know, around digital, whereas, you know, print, absolutely. And whereas, you know, print, danglers, pop-ups, stores, events, that's like a whole other, you know, gamut by itself and like two universes are so completely different.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, very much. So it's, it's challenging. And it's also, I mean, it's challenging from an operations perspective, because print needs to be done in a specific way. It needs to be shot in a specific way with specific cameras. It needs to be retouched with people who are familiar with retouching print because it's so much it ends up being so much bigger, you know, a lot of the stuff that we shoot can go on a billboard and things like that versus little tiny screen that the image only needs to be that big. So yeah, like I said, it was a learning experience to understand. 

Arjita: And then there's so much post-processing, like you have the color separation and then you need to configure the machines and then talk to the printer like the whole other.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Absolutely. Yeah, a lot of proofing. And we still have issues with proofing. I think it's, you know, the team, we're all quite similar in age. And so a lot of us are learning together, I think, you know, with graphic design, they need to do print in a specific way with certain you know, match prints, doing things in a very specific way so that they look good in the light boxes and the light, you know, light flares that wash things out. It's all, it's, it's all different. Yeah.

Arjita: So Nicole, that brings me to my next question. Like at a brand like Elizabeth Erden, right? Like what does brand consistency actually mean? And how do you implement it? Like, how do you make sure that the experience of a customer in the US versus someone in Asia, they get a very similar feel of the brand? Like, what does that actually mean?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, it's actually a big struggle. So what we do, my team does, is we create what we call a toolkit, which is standard guidelines for a launch globally. But then we have all of the different regions from the world come to us and they're like, hey, I need this for this retailer, and I need this for this website, and I need this for this pop-up we're doing or whatever.

Um, and then we have to kind of take what we've created for the global guidelines. And we have to make sure that it fits within what their retailers are asking for, what the ask is for, where the placement is and make sure that it still stays on brand and it's a struggle every single day. Um, you know, some teams have designers that are directly in their countries and their regions and we just would send over the artwork and they would you know do it themselves but then it's inconsistent and consistent consistency is like a huge thing that we're working on right now with the brand. So we've been doing a lot of work and we've been doing this since I started here. We created brand guidelines in 2021 which basically it was like you know this is what the logo needs to look like everywhere. This is what the font colors need to be. This is what

the text needs to be the hierarchy of all the texts. And so we really try to follow that within all of our designs for everything. Even when we're translating things to other languages, we still try to follow all of those guidelines. But like I said, it can be difficult because, you know, what is popular in Asia and what things need to look like in say China specifically, it's not necessarily what's gonna be, you know, popular in the United States.

Arjita: Yeah.

Nicole D'Anna Long: There are different trends all over. They want models who look different. Um, you know, they want to be creative. That's different. They want different types of colors. If there is some kind of promotion, like say holiday or, you know, black Friday or something like that, they want things to look a certain way. So it's, it, we are always, um, working with the teams around the world to try and find something that will fit their needs and staying on brand, trying to stay on brand so that things are recognizable. Because it's difficult. We've we noticed coming in that we'd look different in a lot of places So we've been trying to change that

Arjita: Yeah, I mean, it could be tricky balancing that thin line between having brand consistency and being culturally appropriate and attractive. Yeah. Yes. So, you know, given the rapid changes in consumer behavior, especially, with all the digital products evolving and consumers being online all the time. So.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yeah, definitely. It's hard.

Arjita: All the digital, you know, boost, how do you foresee the future of creative operations in the context of the cosmetics industry?

Nicole D'Anna Long: I mean, it's really wild with cosmetics because you would think that they would kind of not shift completely digital because people wanna see things in person, they wanna see colors in person, they wanna see how something feels on their skin, but it does seem like everything is shifting very heavily digital. And so, I mean, I've noticed that we've been very video heavy recently. Everybody wants video, video. I think it's like, you know, with TikTok, they're a short form video and that's like what's really popular and like Instagram reels. And I think people really like seeing the more realistic side of people trying things on rather than these like very forced models and like are what you would think of a typical commercial format. So that's how I see things continuing to evolve based on just, you know, the what I've heard from the teams that we work with. I think it's going to continue to skew in that direction, more video, more digital. Yeah.

Arjita: With you absolutely. So, Nicole, that brings us to the end of our conversation. And it was a wonderful chat. I just have like these three very, you know, rapid fire questions, fun questions, throw them. So Nicole, if you were a book, what would be the title of your book?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Oh my goodness, I don't know. I don't know. I think this is a joke with my team, but I think the title of my book would be Per My Last Email, because I feel like I am always having to say things over and over, per my last email, that's what it would be.

Arjita: I think I'm going to have my team make a meme on it and you will feature in that meme. Nice, nice one. And what's your favorite holiday destination?

Nicole D'Anna Long: My favorite holiday destination? Oh, that's difficult too. I love, I mean, I love Europe. My husband is from Europe and he's taken me all around. So I think France is my favorite place that I've gone to. France, France is my favorite. Yes, yeah.

Arjita: Sorry, what's that? France, okay. Nice. And, you know, what is that one task at work that really bugs you and you really want something to automate it forever?

Nicole D'Anna Long: Oh my goodness. I think it's time tracking because we do reports because we work on so many different projects at the same time and have to bill so many people back that we have to do time tracking and because I work on so many different projects it's just a constant like an hour there, an hour there, an hour there. So I would love somebody to automatically be looking at my computer and doing it for me on my own instead of me having to track my own time.

Arjita: Interesting. Great. So that brings us to the end of the conversation, Nikul. Thank you for taking out the time and I always enjoy our conversations a lot. Thank you so much.

Nicole D'Anna Long: Yes, me too. Yeah, thank you for having me.

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