In-House Agencies – Fast, Cheap, & Good!

June 13, 2012

By Bill Duggan

ANA In-House Agency Day, just held at the offices of Charles Schwab in San Francisco, attracted a crowd of over fifty marketers. When we surveyed members a few years ago, we found that 42 percent had an in-house agency of some type. And speculation is that the percentage has grown further as the primary benefits of in-house agencies  speed and cost savings  are more important than ever. But in-house agencies can also offer terrific strategic thinking and creative work as well.

A presentation from the In-House Agency Forum led off the day and was focused on how to shift an in-house agency from an order-taker to a business partner. Two tips from that session stood out to me:

  • Be customer centric: Become an expert in the business and the brand. Understand your clients’ needs and concerns. Go beyond — surpass their expectations. Measure your performance.
  • Maintain a competitive advantage: Keep abreast of ad trends, including new media. Define your digital expertise needs. Understand your global brand and global support needs.

Schwab’s in-house agency has 132 staffers in four locations  San Francisco, Austin, Richfield (Ohio), and Chicago. More recently, the in-house agency has had a steady evolution to doing more digital work and has focused on providing a “digital experience” with interactive display, video, and mobile.

Blue Shield of California’s philosophy is, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” The in-house agency works hard to be a strategic partner with its clients and continuously measures its success. Metrics include purchase consideration, the quality of the work, and satisfaction rate of internal partners. The agency has had over thirty marketing excellence awards since 2010!

Franklin Templeton has a truly global model with teams in the U.S., Canada, Poland, and India. Over 4,000 projects are completed annually, and 500 are active in any given week. Work is done in over 20 languages — not just English, Spanish, French and German… but also Chinese, Estonian, Swedish and Turkish!

Many of us have been schooled on the ‘triangle’ throughout our careers  “fast, cheap, good… pick two.” In-house agencies have always been fast and cheap. One participant noted, “We operate at 30 percent of what it would cost to go outside for the same services, saving millions per year.”  But more and more in-house agencies are now challenging the triangle theory by being good as well. Expect to see the use of in-house agencies to grow and become even more important going forward. 

comments (4)

Mark Shafer

June 18, 2012 9:23am ET

Being the best, means working with the best. Having an opportunity to share best practices and ideas, with the best, is what this InHouse ANA day was all about. great stuff, ANA.

Marta Stiglin

June 19, 2012 2:50pm ET

Thanks for the post, Bill. It was a pleasure participating in your event and presenting on all things in-house. While the in-house model may have been prompted by corporate pressure to reduce advertising costs and turn times, today’s internal agencies truly are focused on broader challenges like how to expand their company’s digital footprint and how to integrate the global brand. Organizing and operationalizing the volume and diversity of work that’s being insourced has become the baseline. Evolving a talent pool with advanced skills combined with the curiosity and determination to stay ahead of the curve is the new bar. Let's keep the conversation going -- as evolving a community of sharing, like IHAF, can only help those that are making strides in this space to advance that much further.

Kimberly McNeil

June 20, 2012 9:29am ET

Bill excellent snapshot of what was accomplished. So glad we were able to share with each other, validate what we have all individually suspected about the value of in-house and learn new and surprising things that make in-house agencies successful. As in-house agencies evolve to meet the needs of our businesses we are very fortunate to have ANA and IHAF at the ready to support us.

Don McAdang

June 21, 2012 1:36pm ET

Bill, it was our pleasure to host in-house agency day. Thanks for the excellent recap -- and I echo all of the above comments. It's inspiring to discuss how in-house operations are evolving to meet more strategic and complex needs while still providing value. The ANA and IHAF remain important resources for us.

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