Digging Deeper: Pitching & Implementing a Successful Internal Agency

I recently wrote an article for The CMO Club where I shared my rules for building an internal agency. After creating several successful agencies myself, I found that - while the conversation about bringing creative in-house might be dominated by charts and dollar signs - the actual implementation of an effective creative agency goes far beyond the bottom line and gets deep into the core of who you are bringing onboard and why.

My three rules for this endeavor are simple:

  1. Don’t make it about cost savings
  2. Be driven by passion and purpose
  3. Hire a network, not just an individual

It’s about moving away from the transactional brand-agency relationship and into a structure that allows for a free flow of ideas, creativity and aligned visions between marketing and creative. Your internal agency will intrinsically understand your customers – because they are their customers – and will put you in the same room as people that are genuinely invested in moving your brand forward.

But this all begs the question of how to get there in the first place? What are the magic words that you need to say to your company for them to understand the value of having a team right down the hall from you?

And then, as the right-hand man or woman of your CMO, what are your responsibilities for continuing to maintain and foster a successful creative team culture?

Build your Case

My number one rule is that, on its own, cost savings isn’t a compelling enough argument to shift your organizational structure and bring on a team of in-house creatives.

That being said, you’d be folly to leave it out of the discussion completely. When presenting the case for an internal agency, it’s important to lead with the core values that will drive successful creative and build your brand equity – think of a team that is always on brand and on time, team members who are right down the hall and easily accessible for constructive rapport, people that are invested in your brand purpose and have their own skin in the game.

Then, drive home the case by giving the qualitative factors a number value and lay out the real costs of multiple revisions, after hours calls and the time it takes to explain your brand purpose, vision and goals to a new agency or team (time, by the way, that is billable).

Show your company that you are a numbers person who can deliver big-time on marketing results.

Maintain the Quality

Business success happens at the intersection of cost savings and quality output – and maintaining that quality is a key concern of most marketers when faced with the option to move in-house.

To prevent our work from going stale, I channel the mentality and culture of effective, tough and punchy agencies that have top-notch work. The ‘one’ agency I loved, the one that got away….The Great White Buffalo (if you don't understand the reference you MUST watch Hot Tub Time Machine right now) of creative teams.

True, our culture may not measure up against these agencies, but that is where we use our brand purpose – the opportunity to impact the world through our work –to resonate with and inspire each team member.

Everyone gets buy-in through these aligned goals, and the results are amazing.

Just look at Oreo’s team from the 2013 Super Bowl. When the power when out, advertisers were left scratching their heads – everyone was paying for that precious ad time, and no one had an answer. Oreo’s internal team was watching it unfold together in their ‘war room,’ though, and they were able to think on their feet with a responsiveness that agencies couldn’t provide.

“You can still dunk in the dark”

One tweet that was shared more than 10,000 times within the first hour of being published and had a payoff that lasted much longer than their regular-showing ad.

At the end of the day, an in-house team can react. They can be on-brand quicker, more invested, and more passionate.

And for me, that’s a win every time.