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Creative agencies face another challenge as talent shift towards in-house teams of start-ups

Experts say a hybrid model in which brands outsource services while investing in their own teams will stabilise the situation

These days, in-house creative team is the new buzzword in many digital-first brands, which are nurturing creative talent instead of turning to agencies. Brands such as Swiggy, Zomato, Dunzo, Oyo Rooms and Ola are some examples where in-house teams are handling their creative work while brands such as Spotify.

Globally, brands such as Nestle and Hertz have been riding on the in-house bandwagon for long. But names such as P&G and Vodafone also are using a hybrid approach – using both in-house teams for most of the work and hiring agencies for a few services.

With the rise of a digital-first narrative across brands—and more and more companies looking for instant communication—having an in-house creative team sounds like a viable proposition.

As a result, advertising agencies are facing a challenge from the slow emergence of in-house creative teams. Experts say talent from agencies are also moving towards the in-house teams of brands as they are offering better pay checks.

Ayesha Ghosh

Ayesha Ghosh, CEO, Taproot Dentsu, said, “While brands are investing in their own creative teams, some of them tend to outsource when it comes to big-impact campaigns. This is because agencies attract the best creative talent; they offer creative people a chance to flex their creative muscles on many categories and brands. For clients, advertising is just one of the functions and not the core one. Their creative team is not the sun at the centre of the solar system like they are in agencies. The creative reel is an agency’s calling card. But there is no denying that a heftier pay packet is difficult to resist. It also helps that some new-age brands with in-house creative teams are doing some good work.”

Ghosh said creative talent has been steadily leaking out of the industry because apart from the in-house creative teams, there is a lot of opportunity in the form of web and OTT series writing and direction. She said feature and ad film direction has always been an attraction for creative people. These offer a larger canvas for one to display creativity, and get a shot at fame and glory.

Hybrid approach is the future

Anand Krishnan

Anand Krishnan, Founder and Partner, Sunny Side Up, said agencies and models will have to evolve further to tackle the issue.

"The need for 'in-housing' of creative talent by companies stems from their own brand journeys or presence. Global organisations such as Target or Maersk have the need to sustain a consistent brand language and economies of scale through hub models. Businesses such as Swiggy, Ola or Dunzo on the other hand are digital-first brands. The need for them is to remain hyper-responsive, led by internal teams who imbibe the brand essence faster. Advertising agencies will have to evolve into a hub and spoke model with long-term brand strategy being driven by the agency, while rapid response is managed by creative teams co-located at client sites," said Krishnan.

He said while they have lost some talent to the in-house creative teams of brands like most advertising agencies, they are looking at younger talent. He said the opportunities with advertising are much wider and the young talent is always hungry for opportunities.

Robert Godinho

On the other hand, Robert Godinho, MD, MediaMonks India, said new-age brands are right in recognising the need for in-house capabilities in the digital-paced environment. "With real-time posts, reactions and dialogues on the net, brands need teams that are 100% invested. New-age brands are right to recognise this trend and build in-house capabilities. In fact, we run successful embedded team models for a few of our clients, where time and brand knowledge is of essence. These cockpit teams have creative, copy, design and film capabilities to ideate and execute digital assets that brands need.”

Godinho said the best model is a hybrid one where a cockpit team within the brand itself with a floating crew out of production hubs is there to execute the entire communications piece, thus guaranteeing consistency in quality and optimum time management. He said that is how he sees the future relationship of brands with digital partners.

Challenges brands face with in-house creative teams

Having an in-house team saves agency fees and allows brands to more efficiently combine creative and business talent under one roof. While this makes it easier for brands, just providing a better pay might be the only way to get a plethora of talent to work at in-house teams. According to experts, the fear of lower exposure, lack of perspectives outside the brand, getting tired of working with the same brand are some fears that the creative talent face.

Sai Ganesh

This suggests brands first really need to invest the right kind of time and money while setting up teams to get the best results. “Of course, we do face a crunch in hiring the right talent, but if you can invest time and effort in hiring the right people, the returns are much higher with an in-house team. There are two aspects, one is lower long-term costs and the second measurable return is TAT; the turn-around-time is far lower,” said Sai Ganesh, Lead, Brand Management, Dunzo.

He said for a frugal start up, the 90-10 framework works the best: 90% of the work is done by in-house teams, and 10% of the outlier work is done by specialists.

“Apart from that, having an in-house brand team allows for organic commitment to the brand. This means the team is always thinking of the brand, the consumer and their pain points. So we end up looking at every single piece of potential content, whether it is moment marketing like ‘Rasode main kaun tha’ or a long-form film. We look at it from the prism of Dunzo. This is the biggest difference between in-house teams and other cross-category agency teams,” he added.

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