If any ad agency executives still doubt they’re at risk of losing business because clients want to take back control, it’s time for a reality check. The trend is very real. According to a survey by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) members, 78 percent have an in-house agency of some form. That’s up from 58 percent in 2013. Of course, in-housing is neither straightforward nor is it achieved overnight. Every brand has its own level of comfort, capability, and appetite for bringing work historically done by agencies under their own roof. Some functions are also perceived as more “in-house” than others.
Whilst bringing social, digital and programmatic media buying in-house has risen in the last five years, there is now more interest than ever when it comes to advertising’s other key elements; the ad creative. Brands have been able to bring digital media in-house thanks to advancements in technology, enabling them to cut out the middleman and take back control of their media spend. However, it’s not easy, it takes a lot of energy and resources to build the expert teams required to build strategies to use effectively leverage technology and media. This expertise is not easy to come by, nor easily retained.
With a rapid and constantly evolving world of Social and Digital Advertising, there has also been a trend to move media and creative closer together. Therefore, any brand moving digital media in-house must now look to whether moving creative in-house is the next logical step in their own Digital Transformation timeline.
This is easier said than done. AdTech is a mature industry, with technology and software well developed to offer great scale and automation for brands. Creativity is different, it’s inherently a human trait, one that requires the right talent and mindset. There is no doubt that the traditional creative agencies are missing digital creative expertise and have been slow to evolve to a new world of mobile video and social media, but does this mean that brands will do any better?
It’s hard not to ponder over the strategic and financial gains of bringing creative in-house, however, one thing should be certain, it shouldn’t be achieved by copying the same agency model that is already broken. Traditional agency and production models weren’t designed for a fast-paced and agile world of digital and social video. Brands run the risk of spending time, resources and money building in-house creative models that will be inadequate to achieve their Digital Transformation goals.
There is however a way forward, and it follows a similar path taken by media. Technology has empowered a new generation of creators around the world to produce amazing creative and content. Smart brands will look to models that enable them to harness what is now the most powerful creative resource on the planet.
Creative and Content production is only now starting to be truly disrupted by technology. There are now a number of Creative Technology platforms that are enabling brands to scale their ad creative operations for digital and social. Brands shouldn’t think of creative platforms as a magic pill that will solve everything, but as an enabler. In much the same way technology drives efficiencies for media buying, it can improve the processes involved in creative production.
However, there are also cautionary tales when looking for the right Creative Technology partners. Many AdTech players and various technology models offer an agile and scalable solution for brands but lack the ability to produce quality creative at scale. This is a huge dilemma as creative is one of the most important factors in driving ad performance. The last thing a brand wants to do is create content at speed and scale, only to find out they have spent all their media behind poor quality creative and missed their business objectives.
Linking media and creative will be key to success in the Digital World. But it’s important to remember that while technology may drive media, humans drive creativity and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. To in-house creative, brands should look outward, to new models combining technology with human creativity to drive operational efficiencies, agility, and creative quality.