July 23, 2019

How to Build a Killer In-House Creative Team

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About to start work on a major advertising campaign? Perhaps you’re bringing advertising in-house after working with an agency? 

If it’s time to elevate creativity beyond the marketing department, you’ll need to establish a solid internal creative team. But who from your company should be working on your campaigns and what kind of internal expertise do you need to bring in?

This article will help you understand the people you need to incorporate into your creative team and how the department should be structured to give you the best results.

Building an in-house creative agency

If you’re serious about taking your campaign planning in house, you’ll want to establish what is essentially an internal creative agency. This means it’s independent of other departments and can work on campaigns across the business. It will have much the same structure as an external creative agency: 

Image credit: WorkFront

Key personnel 

Director:

The agency should be headed up by a director – an executive who will oversee the operation and the work coming out of it. You may be able to source an existing executive that can take on these duties, supported by an executive administrator. 

Project Manager:

Under the director, should sit a project manager. This person will be responsible for liaising with the different departments (internal clients) to understand project requests, define objectives, deliverables and delivery dates. They will communicate the brief to the creative team and manage the successful execution of the campaign by working with the production team.

Art Director:

In traditional advertising agencies, an art director works in partnership with a copywriter to form a “creative team”. The creative team is responsible for ideation – coming up with ideas in response to the briefs supplied by the project manager. The art director is tasked with generating visual concepts and will manage creative work through to completion, with overall sign-off on the appearance of the final product.

Senior Copywriter: 

The senior copywriter is the other half of the creative team, working with the art director to develop concepts, messaging, taglines and scripts. They will be responsible for all copy associated with a campaign, also overseeing the output of any other writers. 

Additional talent

Once the blueprint for a campaign has been drawn up by the creative team, additional talent needs to be brought in to execute the plans. The expertise you’ll need will depend on the nature of the project; whether it’s digital, print, television, radio, OOH or experiential. 

Your wider team may need to include other graphic designers and writers, photographers, videographers, web developers, UX designers, artists and editors. While you can always employ freelancers or partner with external agencies, building a multidisciplinary team in-house enables you to be nimble and streamlined, which is crucial these days.

To get a handle on the capabilities you already have within the business and identify where you have gaps, try developing a skills matrix:  

Image credit: File Stage

Along the Y axis, list all of the skills you might need for your projects: HTML, CSS, illustration, UX, video editing etc. Then in the X axis, list all current employees’ names. Put an “X” in all of the categories that an employee is proficient in.

Perhaps you can co-opt skilled staff from elsewhere to provide support to your in-house creative agency? Meanwhile, you can aim to fill any skills gaps (as shown in red in the above example) when bringing on new hires. A skills matrix is invaluable when resourcing projects, as it shows at-a-glance who is best suited to the task.

Inspiring creativity 

The creative team (formed by the art director and copywriter) acts as the lynchpin to your in-house creative agency. This pair (with input from the project manager) is traditionally responsible for thrashing out ideas, but it doesn’t need to be limited to them exclusively.  

There’s certainly room for other creatives to contribute ideas to your campaigns. Jonathan Burley, formerly Chief Creative Officer at Y&R London, says maintaining a diverse group in planning meetings can be beneficial:

“I believe that the familiarity that develops between the two members of any creative team has a tendency to breed content. The many years they spend working together produce a very strong shared executional taste and an instinctive “one brain” shortcut to a creative solution,” he told Campaign.

Rather than always leaving ideation up to established creative duos, the agency now runs a breakfast club format, gathering a “random group of bright creatives around a problem and letting them slip the leash.”

Spotify, meanwhile, believes it’s valuable to consult with experts from outside the business. It has created the Culture Change Collective, which partners with groups like GLAAD, Colour of Change and The Jed Foundation, to provide another perspective on campaign ideas.

“It’s not enough to have one person’s perspective in the room. There needs to be more people with more voices contributing to dialogue or you just don’t look at an issue from enough angles to have the context and perspective,” Jackie Jantos, Spotify’s VP of Brand and Creative, tells Marketing Week.

In addition to securing input from a sufficiently diverse team, you can use consumer insight to gain inspiration for your in-house campaigns. This will provide a solid foundation on which to build your ideas as you’ll know what resonates with real people. Meanwhile, testing creative with consumers can make sure the outputs work for your target audience and prevent costly mistakes. 

A final thought

While establishing an in-house creative agency is an investment and a commitment, it can offer a range of advantages. In addition to cost savings, internal agencies have considerably better brand and company knowledge. 

And since there are fewer middlemen and more direct communication between creatives and stakeholders, it can be easier to get buy-in. What’s more, the research you carry out as part of your campaign planning process will enable you to get to know your customers better, ultimately benefitting all areas of your business.