Removing cultural barriers between your onshore and offshore creative teams

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The ever-increasing tempo of expectations each year of the highly competitive creative landscape has made the publishers, agencies, and brands undergo the pressure to not just produce quantity, but also quality. And to combat these production challenges, a lot of advertisers have adopted the hybrid approach of selective outsourcing i.e. keep some parts of creative ops in-house while outsource others.

If done in the right manner, creative outsourcing can provide considerable cost savings, flexibility and scalability. A reliable outsourcing partner can deliver a quality service round the clock economically compared to creating your own pool of talent in-house.

However, offshoring to other countries causes unique challenges which should be understood and managed efficiently. A lot of studies conducted in the past have discovered that outsourcing deals are unsuccessful, totally or partially, due to a lack of cultural compatibility between the vendor and the client.

Hence, it is vital to know that massive cultural gaps exist and they have a major influence over a project’s performance. Time zone differences, language barriers, power distance / organizational hierarchy, dissimilarities in customs and different decision-making patterns all add up to various imperceptible challenges that must be tackled while outsourcing.

Below are a few suggestions that might help businesses remove cultural barriers between their onshore and offshore creative teams:

Cultural sensitization to empower communication

Essentially, cultural differences can be the major reason for various offshore outsourcing problems. Cultural differences denote “differences in partner nationality”. And according to Hofstede cultural dimensions theory, national cultural differences can impact managerial beliefs, standards, approaches, decisions, and behaviors.

To be precise, cultural risk can be the major culprit leading to miscommunication and mistrust which in turn can cause disconnected info flow that might result in poor creative project performance.

Cultural sensitization and training is the best way to facilitate both the parties in serving the common business interest. To achieve this, it’s essential to create an environment where it is fine to ask questions to get clarity on any ambiguity. Basic training on common industry terminology before the commencement of the project should be done to avoid miscommunication during production. With fewer possibilities of disputes and team dysfunction, time and money are eventually saved.

Understanding & managing power distance

Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally (Hofstede, 1991, p. 97). Members of high power distance cultures accept inequalities among individuals as appropriate, while the emphasis on equality and a sense of discomfort with hierarchical distinctions is characteristic of low power distance cultures.

For example, a number of societies might seek to do away with differences in power and wealth, at the same time as others prefer a higher power distance. And, these differences might turn out to be apparent when employees are working across as cross-functional teams operating from different parts of the world.

The exponential growth of the advertising industry relies heavily on strategic practices for elevating innovation and creative production processes. And it has undoubtedly become extremely important for onshore outsourcing partners to manage the power distance for ensuring competitive success. Streamlined review cycle levels up the distance between hierarchy followed in different cultures and encourage multilateral correspondence. Constant communication between stakeholders also smoothens the collaboration factor leading to the bridging of the gap between hierarchies and ironing out the communication structure.

Unified design language to maintain consistency

It is imperative that both the businesses involved in outsourcing should speak the same design language as in the case of any miscommunication, there are chances that design specifications and briefs can be understood differently by developers or designers, be it on creative or technical levels.

For this, proper briefing should be done. A set of understandable terms should be part of a creative brief to clear off all the differences and ambiguity and enhance better understanding between both the internal teams and the external partners.

Need help? Talk to the experts.

Cultural differences are a delicate issue, which if not addressed while offshoring can create creative havoc and eventually can lessen your chances of being competitive in the global market. While offshoring, organizations should thoroughly learn how cultural differences can influence their business in different foreign markets.

Express KCS has been working with global brands, agencies and publishers to successfully outsource creative production work across digital, video and print, helping them scale production, save money and resources. With more than a decade’s experience in offshoring and outsourcing, our workforce is fully equipped and trained to support cross-cultural creative production and communication.

If you would like to know more about our business or need support in creative production outsourcing, feel free to contact us at