Bringing Video In-House

September 27, 2019

By Morgan Strawn

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In the last several years, an increasing number of brands have been bringing video production capabilities in-house. There are a number of reasons for this trend. If brands already control the conceptual and creative aspects of marketing, as many do, taking on responsibility for production gives them almost complete control over the final product. It also affords brands more flexibility as they plan and schedule campaigns, to say nothing of its role in cutting costs by eliminating intermediary mark-ups.

Reaping such benefits of in-house video production requires considerable planning and work from brands as they make a host of decisions around hiring and staffing, capability selection, and team structure.

 

Hiring and Staffing

Cella, a management consultancy specializing in in-house agencies and creative teams, advises brands that are bringing video in-house to make their first hire a video producer, observing that he or she will have a background in various production styles, a network of diverse talent that can be drawn upon as freelancers, and an understanding of the roles that are and are not needed for productions of varying levels of complexity.

After developing its production services team, Fidelity identified a number of other important roles, including a director of photography, video editor, audio engineer, and animation specialists. In particular, Fidelity sought to develop a strong video editing team equipped with sufficient editing suites, as their contributions were typically the most time-consuming and work-intensive aspects of the production process.

Fidelity also suggested that brands with heavier production schedules might want to hire a paymaster to ensure that talent is paid in a timely manner and in accordance with tax guidelines. Paymasters can be especially helpful when handling union talent, as the SAG/AFTRA contract can be complex and requires strict adherence.

In some cases, foreign talent can enhance a team’s efficiency. As PwC has built out its own production agency, it has considered the creation of a full-time “offshore” production team dedicated to the brand, which would allow it to take advantage of lower hourly rates. Fidelity also posited that forming a dedicated team would help its members to acquire valuable institutional knowledge, both of PwC and of the financial market at large.

 

Capabilities

As brands create their video teams, they’ll naturally want to design them around the capabilities most relevant to their business. When PwC developed its team, it established its own production studio, plus the capabilities to shoot remotely, create motion graphics, and develop experiential marketing activations.

New York Life created an “insert studio” that allowed the brand to record leaders in-house and transmit the feed to media outlets for interviews and guest segments. This approach both increased the brand’s visibility and drove efficiency, while also creating new opportunities for the brand’s PR department.

The need for capable archiving is one of the most overlooked aspects of bringing production capabilities in-house. Videos are constantly being adjusted and repurposed to suit different channels, strategies, and opportunities, and the ability to locate and access the content quickly is essential.

A company can use a large-scale or a smaller-scale solution for fulfilling its video-storage needs. For smaller companies, it might make sense to purchase an external hard drive for each project to be copied onto. One of the copies would then remain on-site, while the other would be stored in a low-cost storage facility. For larger production operations, automated backup and storage to a cloud would likely be more appropriate.

However, as an in-house team develops, the chances are that it won’t be entirely self-sufficient, making healthy relationships with agencies and freelancers critical. Fidelity, for instance, attests to the importance of its relationships with external animation houses, audio studios, composers, and production freelancers, which have provided it with the agility and flexibility needed to complete almost any project within the given time constraints.

 

Organization

Cella urged brands that are developing in-house production teams to consider organizational models provided by their peers in other companies. Going further, the consultant recommended that brands ask for not just the bare skeleton of the reporting structure, but for the stories and rationales that flesh it out with context. Why has Role X been assigned to report to Role Y? There’s probably a past experience that prompted the decision, which other teams could learn from.

At PwC, the in-house team was organized as closely to a traditional agency as possible so that its internal clients would feel comfortable working with it. As one specific example of this arrangement, PwC described how account managers served as intermediaries between PwC’s various internal lines of business and the creative teams.

As another helpful example of how a brand might arrange its team, Cella shared an organizational chart, while planting its tongue firmly in its cheek as it insisted on that model’s objective preeminence.

Courtesy of Cella

In-housing video production capabilities may not be the right decision for all organizations. Some will be more comfortable continuing to rely on external agencies. Others, though, will determine that the arrangement is consonant with their strategic needs and the constraints on their resources, if only in the form of a “hybrid” model that allows them to take on some responsibilities themselves while continuing to assign the most complex or otherwise challenging responsibilities to agencies. To successfully go in-house, whether on a wholesale or a hybrid basis, companies will have to undertake considerable work to see the team from hazy conceptualization to a humming operation. They will take important steps toward their ultimate end, though, by ensuring that their in-house teams are thoughtfully staffed and structured, taking note of the guidance above.


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