Curation Zone Streamlines Creative Talent Discovery for Agencies and Brands

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From the producer, brand and agency perspective, Curation Zone, is providing a one-stop discovery shop to find the best possible talent from across many of the industry leading platforms; including Behance, Vimeo, Le Book, The Dots, IMVDB, Dribbble, Talent Manager, AdForum, Mandy and seven other creative talent source platforms - with more to be added soon.

To achieve this, Curation Zone uses artificial intelligence algorithms to normalise the creative talent "credential" data such as role credits, projects (uncredited), awards, engagement and commendations from each platform. This makes it easier for producers, agencies and brands to compare apples to apples, and find the best talent for the job, no matter which platform the talent prefers to use.

Frictionless Intelligent Index

Curation Zone isn't replicating or disintermediating the existing platforms, rather it acts as a "platform of platforms", using AI to create an up to date index of creative talent across many platforms - a little like the Google of creative talent discovery.

To help explain, I was interviewed by Scott Stonham of Well That's Interesting Tech about what we are trying to achieve at Curation Zone, how we are using cutting edge technologies and what benefit it will deliver to the creative industries.

Scott Stonham in CONVERSATION WITH  Russell Glenister, CEO Curation Zone      

Scott - When it comes to discovering fresh, quality talent, what challenges does the industry face now that it didn’t a couple of years ago?

Russell - There is definitely a greater need to be flexible at today’s agencies. Historically, agencies relied more on big retainer jobs and therefore built up top heavy in-house creative teams, but now the work is often project based and broader in scope than TV and print, so the need for flexibly is far greater.

One of the top 5 Ad Agencies recently told me they have over 200 freelance vacancies to fill out of their US offices alone

COVID has really put a lot of pressure on the organisations with over-weight in-house teams, but finding qualified, reliable, flexible freelancers is hard work and not always effective - that’s the challenge we are solving.

Scott - Why is it so hard to find the talent? There seem to be so many different platforms. We've already touched on the ones you work with above, but there's the likes of Upwork, Unsplash and so many others.

Russell - The ones you mentioned tend to be more consumer, pro-sumer or small/medium business focused - although we have undertaken in-depth analysis of Unsplash and will likely add that platform later - mostly these sectors are not our core priority. The agency supporting Nike wants to make sure they get the best and most promising up and coming photographers, not the cheapest or the most active on a platform, but with no experience.

These platforms are flooded with creative talent who have some verifiable work credentials but more often, those who don’t. Unfortunately the same problem is true with the more professionally focused platforms we work with. Pretty much anyone can register on most of them and say they’ve worked with the top brands, but there’s very little in terms of a systematic way of checking this - that is until we came along - it’s a big part of the challenges we face.

Scott - Why is this important to creative workers?    

Russell  - The creative world has moved on, it’s not all about producing TV and print ads anymore. The content produced is much more diverse, and usually has to be produced quickly. That often means the shift away from total reliance on in-house teams to more flexible on-demand, more diversely skilled creatives, is critical. This now means the big agencies and brands are looking for talents and skills they might have either previously not have needed, or would have had to hire in-house for. This new demand now means there’s more top quality work opportunities for a broader, more diverse creative skill set.

The shift from in-house to finding freelance talent has been made difficult because of the diversity of platforms that creative talent post their profiles. The only way this is going to reach its potential is if agencies and brands can more easily sift out the top talent across these platforms, with verifiable work from those who are being a little more, shall we say, ’speculative’ with their credentials. In my experience, the 80:20 rule applies - of the millions of freelancers on the top-tier platforms we look at, only around 20% of them actually have the skills and background that agencies and brands require - we focus on finding and showcasing these, per role, through a single search, across all 16 of the creative source platforms we analyse.

Scott - How is technology helping creative talent find better, fairer work?

Russell - Making an impact, doing something memorable and thought provoking means doing something that’s often not been done before. That means the media world is continuously evolving and diversifying. Technology is unlocking new behaviours, which drives new formats and new ways of making those. During COVID we’ve seen a surge of use in technologies that enable things to be done remotely, from script reading and auditions to 3D model creation using drones and gaming technology, to out of studio motion capture.

Currently, though, the industry is finding technologies from other sectors and repurposing them. This isn’t perfect and adds both cost and risk. However, these will develop further, refine and become better suited. In doing so, new jobs, new skills will be created - that will need to be filled.

From our point of view, we use AI to enable producers, brands and agencies to feel confident relying on our suggested freelancers for these newer roles and skills, as well as their more traditional creative needs.

Although we algorithmically analyse the world’s top freelance talent sources, it’s the production, agency and brand staff that make the final selection from our ranked searchable index suggestions

Scott - There's a lot of reasonable concern about bias in AI. Are you worried that leaving AI to find the right talent might introduce bias?

Russell - That’s a great, if not loaded, question. In a way you could look at Curation Zone as a deliberate introduction of bias - we’re actively biasing those who have the background and skills that match their claims, but that’s only part truth. This kind of bias is not new, it’s done all the time with search filters and sorting, it’s just how we do it, and how we balance the data sets we use that are unique. We spent a lot of time working through the bias issue - how we can ensure that someone new does not get penalised for having fewer credits, projects or awards, for example? The solutions are all built into the algorithms.

Anyway, that’s not what you asked. Are we worried about how AI will create unknown bias? Yes, that worries us in general, but we have built the platform to mitigate this. Our platform isn’t a black-box, it’s essentially a feedback-loop system, with humans firmly in the middle, and in control of that feedback.

Our algorithms help to vastly cut down the number of profiles that get presented to the person searching and make it easier to compare the ones they do evaluate

The AI there is focused on pattern matching across platforms and profiles. From this curated list, humans feedback into our system by the choices and interactions they make. That feedback helps us keep our algorithms in tune with what our customers are actually searching for.

In Summary

In the face of the unprecedented societal and economic changes, the creative industry has seen tremendous changes, with new tools, technologies and techniques coming to market rapidly. These developments are all leading the way to new skills, new jobs - which, in its own right is a fascinating topic.

A by-product of this technology success has been the commoditisation and dilution of creative talent and increased cost and difficulty in finding the best talent for the job. Neither of which are good for the creative economy in the long run.

A very interesting technology that looks to solve some of these challenges, and drive positive change in the industry is Curation Zone. Curation Zone is a "platform of platforms", that aims to not only make it easier for the producers, agencies and brands to find and work with the best talent for the job, but also streamline the experience and provide fair payment and work to the creative talent.

You can read Scott's in-depth article on the future of the creative economy, where this updated interview was first posted, here.

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