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How to Deliver Brilliant In-house Creative

Rob Foster - Observatory International Rob Foster Managing Partner, London September 22, 2020

In-house creative agencies are increasingly common at large multinationals. Senior Consultant at The Observatory International, Rob Foster, identifies the five lessons for success.

In-housing is a hot topic. It used to be media-driven but increasingly many brands are also exploring the opportunities for bringing creative in-house.

Our report with the World Federation of Advertisers, Global Trends In Creative In-Housing, found that 57% of major multinationals already had an in-house agency of some description with a further 17% considering one. Furthermore, 82% of those that had in-house resource reported an increase in workload over the last 12 months and the Covid lockdown has contributed to that in many cases.

We help clients around the globe optimise and restructure their marketing operations so we know that creative in-housing isn’t suitable for every business. However, there are five common elements that successful in-house agency launches share:

In-housing is a (possible) solution, not an objective

A business’s operating structure should be designed to achieve clearly identified business objectives. Whether or not certain roles are suitable to in-house is only one consideration within an overall resource model that looks to achieve the optimal balance between internal capabilities and external partner agencies. If you start with in-housing as the goal, you will likely encounter numerous challenges and complications that hinder potential success.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Don’t try to in-house every single element of creative need at once. Mass changes may be unsustainable. Make a business case for a model that meets a small number of key objectives, and over time, once the model is delivering against those initial objectives, you can look to widen the scope further and introduce additional goals. Building by iteration means that you can review performance regularly, building upon successes and spotting any issues early.

You aren’t just in-housing creative people/minds

Bringing creative resource in-house is not as simple as hiring some smart thinkers. It’s a fundamental operational change that requires planning. Key issues to consider and address include the necessary technologies, processes, governance, information management and access to platforms that will allow the creative function to operate from inside the business. If you are unable to address all these issues, you shouldn’t start in-housing.

An in-house agency is still an agency

One of the benefits of in-housing creative is closer alignment to the business. Yet that proximity can also breed a lack of formality and, at times, complacency. It is important that the business treats the in-house resource like an external agency, which means adhering to defined working processes, Service Level Agreements and undertaking ongoing performance measurement.

Without the establishment of clear guidelines and processes you run the risk of the business taking advantage of the in-house resource. Only through proper processes can you manage workflow effectively. As one WFA member stated, it can be: “too easy for the Marketing teams to demand work is completed without a process being followed, given they are ‘on site’”.

Flexibility is key

As with any business change, establishing an in-house agency will involve fresh/unforeseen challenges. While it is important to brainstorm potential challenges during the planning stage to help minimise the impact, it is also important to build some agility and flexibility into your model to allow you to overcome any issues. In-house agencies are start-ups and will need to behave like one.

Keeping these lessons in mind as you consider in-housing creative resource will make it more likely it is built for success.

There is no single in-house model but there are two commonly used approaches and a huge scale of grey in between. Brands can recruit headcount directly or they can hire specialist in-housing agencies that will embed their own staff in the business. Both are considered in-housing.

Choosing the right option, however, requires brands to tailor their in-house agency structure to their business objectives.

The full article was first published by The Drum and can be found here.

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