MGM's SVP of Advertising Discusses the Differences Between In-House and Third-Party Agencies

March 9, 2018

By Ryan Dinger

Courtesy of MGM


For the last year and a half, Jessica Cipolla-Tario has served as SVP of advertising and content at MGM Resorts International. While there, her chief function has been overseeing MGM's Internal Advertising Agency. In this role, Jessica — who has worked on the agency side in the past — has gotten to see first-hand what life is like when your ad agency exists within the walls of a larger corporation. During her session at the 2018 ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, Jessica will outline some of her learnings and discuss how MGM's in-house agency was able to switch their focus from quantity to quality.

We recently had the chance to sit down with her and discuss her thoughts on in-house agencies. You can find that conversation below.


Your session at the upcoming Advertising & Financial Management Conference will look at the shift from quantity to quality in creative work at MGM's in-house ad agency. Can you talk a little bit about what that shift entailed?

In 2016, we executed over 30,000 projects. As we shifted to better quality, we worked with our clients on the necessity of projects and removing legacy work. In 2017, we saw a 15 percent reduction in year-over-year work from our existing clients. Though over the year, we did add additional clients to our roster. We worked and continue to work with our clients to change the narrative from order takers to solving their marketing problems. The quality of work has increased, especially with clients that challenge us with their marketing problem and not art directing us to a finished piece.


What do you believe are some of the challenges of working in an in-house agency that you wouldn't usually find at a more traditional agency? What are some of the advantages?

I think the perception of being in-house and corporate makes recruiting creative talent difficult. The corporate environment can impact creative inspiration. In addition, you're also sharing workspace with clients and that can impact office culture and make it difficult to ensure balance. The perception of being a free resource, both in the agency and with clients, is also something that can be hard to navigate sometimes.

At the same time, some of those challenges also provide their own advantages. Working so closely alongside clients in the workspace and being an internal resource brings those of us in the agency closer to the strategy, data, and the "why" behind campaigns. It also ensures organizational support and aligned goals across the organization. Lastly, the proximity means we never really need an invite to visit a client.


With the popularity of in-house agencies and more and more brands going in this direction, what role, if any, do you believe traditional agencies will play in the future of marketing?

I believe traditional agencies have a key role in the future of marketing. They help shape the brand with a clear outside and global opinion. In a perfect world a traditional agency and in-house agency should work together on everything and support one another. A great idea can be that much better when you amplify the perspective.


Get more advice and insights from Jessica Cipolla-Tario at the 2018 ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference, April 29–May 2, in Hollywood, Fla.

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