Is it Time for Creative Services to Transition to an In-House Agency?

By | July 28th, 2015

Marketing and Creative Services often have a strained relationship. As marketers, we rely on our creative services teams for much, if not all, of our campaign creative. Whether it’s due to creation timetables, quality, or pushback, Creative Services can feel like an impediment, rather than an asset. Therefore, we often find ourselves paying a premium to send work to external agencies.

But let’s think about the situation from Creative’s perspective for a moment. Creative Services takes requests from all over the organization and, of course, each department feels their request is the highest priority. They’re expected to fulfill all sorts of miscellaneous projects – with little to no notice – at similar quality to specialized external agencies. Internal teams also have to compete with external agencies to prove their value and secure funding. CS often feels like a drive-through, instead of a valued piece of the organization. In fact, 45% of in-house creative professionals report that getting respect from internal clients is one of their greatest challenges.

A new approach is helping Creative teams at several major organizations. Disney, Best Buy, and Wells Fargo, among others, have rebranded their creative services teams as in-house agencies. For example, Best Buy’s team now calls themselves Yellow Tag Productions. The number of creative services teams rebranding as in-house agencies has grown 16% in the past five years.

This change is more than just branding. Structurally, these in-house agencies have taken a page from their external counterparts. Rather than a typical creative services team, which is a group of writers/ designers and a single team lead, in-house agencies include a layer of project managers. Requests are submitted the project managers, prioritized, and assigned to the appropriate creative staff. Like external agencies, in-house agencies have defined service offerings. Early adopters report these changes result in a more happy and productive creative team.

What do in-house agencies mean for marketers?

As one of the largest clients of Creative Services, marketers certainly have a stake in such a transition. In-house agencies come with a sizeable set of benefits and potential drawbacks, all of which should be carefully evaluated before moving one way or the other.

On the positive side, in-house agencies establish more formal client-agency relationship between Creative Services and Marketing. Client Services gains the input and respect they desire, while Marketing can (reasonably) hold them to the same standards as an external agency. Additionally, with defined service offerings, there is no doubt on the competencies of the internal creative team. With this information readily available, marketers have a clear indication of when to outsource. Finally, switching to an in-house agency format promises an improvement in morale among the creative team, which positively impacts work quality on its own.

The in-house agency format, on the other hand, is not without drawbacks. First and foremost among these are time and cost. Moving from a creative services team to an in-house agency will require a sizeable transition, reducing capabilities in the near-term. This transition can only be successful with support from the whole organization. Without it, the in-house agency will fail to be tangibly different than its predecessor, defeating the purpose of the change. For Marketing, this means changing processes and group dynamics. Whether it’s temporarily limited capabilities or cultural changes, marketers must be prepared to deal with the workflow interruptions associated with transitioning to an in-house agency.

Beyond these general guidelines, there are many other company-specific factors to consider when deciding whether or not an in-house agency format is right for your organization. If you would like more information on in-house agencies and a step-by-step guide to rebranding your own creatives services, take a look at the white paper, “From Creative Services To In-House Agency: A Comprehensive Guide to Rebranding the Team”.