We caught Richard Atkinson, VP Advertising and Creative Studio at Barclaycard on the Brand & Creative stage at Festival of Marketing 2018.

During the session he shared his experiences since deciding to move 85% of the brand’s creative production in-house and we’ve compiled some of the core benefits and risks involved.

The core principles of setting up an in-house creative team

If you’re planning on forming a creative team in-house, it can be difficult to know where to start.

Atkinson recommends that companies consider the skills, expertise and the percentage of in-house vs. external contribution needed. What is required can often be dependent on specialism, target audience and marketing strategy, so this needs to be carefully thought out before beginning the hiring process.

Atkinson’s advice:

Appoint roles with diversity in mind

Regardless of the size of your team. This ensures each completed project is suited to an equally diverse range of customers.

Creative teams require creative spaces

Spaces help to trigger innovative ideas. It is important to allow your team (within reason) to customise their space with mood-boards, images and brand colours – doing so will establish an inspiring in-house environment.

Clearly define roles and responsibilities

According to their strengths and expertise.

Maintain trust and transparency

When acquiring creative input from external agencies ensure that they are aware of and in contact with your in-house team from the outset.

Organise a series of key checkpoints

Do this across the brief for face-to-face meetings with both in-house and agency creatives involved. This will guide the creative process, allow more opportunity for collaboration and reduce the risk of a disjointed outcome at final presentation.

Leave plenty of time for annual planning

This defines the type of team and the number of members you need for the year ahead.

Your first three hires…

…when forming an in-house team should focus on:

  1. Strategy – a creative project manager (or similar) in charge of planning and feedback.
  2. Creative – someone who has in depth knowledge of design principles and how creative content can be adapted to each channel.
  3. Client service – to bring in perspective about what the customer is looking for and how to get started.

The benefits of in-house creativity

  • One of the biggest benefits of an in-house team is that they will already be familiar with, and dedicated to, your brand. Instead of solely using agencies for creative content (who deal with a diverse range of brands on a daily basis) companies can ask their in-house teams to focus solely on one project for a set period of time.
  • Dedicating time and resources to one brief can positively affect efficiency and collaborative culture within the group. Face-to-face meetings are more easily arranged from which quick, vital decisions can be made.
  • The creative team will have access to colleagues from other sectors within the company, from whom they can gather different perspectives regarding content placement, target audience and much more.
  • Sourcing creativity in-house is almost always cheaper than setting an external brief, and you can tailor-make your team to your company’s requirements. Scale, production and expertise can be increased indefinitely as you continue to grow your team.
  • Ultimately, you will have more control and responsibility for the final output and will theoretically be able to experiment more with your content and its usages.

If you’ve got a small dedicated team that is focused on one piece of work, it will get done so much quicker

The risks of in-house creativity and how to combat them

  • Your in-house team may encounter a lack of external inspiration. It is very easy to become closed off from creative content being generated by other companies and agencies both inside and outside of your sector. Encourage your entire team to go to events and expos together and make time to talk about exciting projects outside of your current brief.
  • It is not uncommon for brands to be based in multiple offices both nationally and internationally. Instead of concentrating your creative team to one central hub, consider spreading them out geographically. This will encourage collaboration between multiple teams and offices.
  • Don’t lock yourself away from other parts of the company. Continuously ask for feedback and strategic input from all departments, as this helps to shape the output along the way rather than backtracking to old (and better) ideas during the final presentation.
  • Other departments may have other priorities for the creative team and draw them away from their core focus. Ensure that their top priority is clearly defined and that the project manager requests regular updates.

Everyone will want a piece of the creative team, but their top priority must be clear.

Don’t rule out external agencies altogether

Despite the many benefits of moving your creative projects in-house, it is important not to rule out agencies altogether. According to Atkinson, around 85% of creative output is now produced by Barclaycard’s internal team, whilst maintaining plenty of positive relationships with external agencies with digital specialisms in particular.

Atkinson maintains that “if you don’t embrace your technology partners from the beginning you’ve got a risk of not producing the most creative output” and suggests having a matrix of trusted agencies at hand.

For small businesses, agencies can offer an invaluable amount of man-power, from idea generation to planning and execution. If you have a particularly tricky brief, they can provide expertise and advice that you may not have accounted for during your initial hiring process.

Aside from man-power, agencies can also provide plenty of learning opportunities which your in-house team can benefit from. Perhaps consider organising a fortnightly workshop for your creative staff, based on particular areas you feel require improvement. This creates a culture of development within your office, whilst continuing to strengthen relationships externally.

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