How marketers with in-house teams are keeping up with the creativity of agencies

The post was done in collaboration with Celtra.

Let’s face it, when you work for an agency, you are exposed to a lot more types of creative content, as compared to working in-house day in and day out for a single brand. But the benefits of in-house creative production are widely known – from being able to create higher volumes of content to the ability to tap on sensitive data, cost savings, and most importantly, increasing agility.

During a recent webinar by MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, in partnership with Celtra, Sagar Paranjpe, head of strategy and creative at Malaysia’s flagship carrier Malaysia Airlines, said that while in-housing has a myriad of positives, one clear downside is the lack of exposure.

“External [or agency] creative talents work with so many different accounts, and so they [are more] up to date,” he said.

Internal teams have to work twice as hard to find out what is new out there. With algorithms now thrown into the mix, viewers are constantly fed the type of content the algorithm knows will best resonate with their interests. Therefore, marketers must find new ways to get individuals to go beyond their usual consumption habits so as to garner exposure to new types of content.

“The way algorithms work is to feed you content that you would want to watch. So, you need go there and screw with the algorithm,” Paranjpe said.

Moreover, marketers need to also stop comparing themselves with other marketers, said former BBDO ECD and now head of creative at The LEGO Agency, Primus Nair. Instead, they need to be comparing their work with entertainers, production houses, and everyday content producers.

“When we think about marketing, we often think of comparing our content to other marketers. But consumers aren’t doing that. They’re comparing your work to every other type of content they are watching. This is something in-house teams and creatives need to come to terms with,” he said.

At the end of the day, brands are playing for a share of voice and eye time, and this isn’t going to be just within the marketing industry, but with anyone that entertains the consumer.

Adding to the conversation, Raushida Vasaiwala, general manager of Celtra APAC, said research by Celtra in late 2020 found that 92% of marketers said that creating personalised content experiences for audiences is very important to them. However, only 5% of APAC brands believe they are able to create these relevant experiences for their consumers.

She also said the pandemic and lockdowns set in motion a new way of evaluating content. Many marketers are struggling to find faster ways of repurposing creative content to stay relevant. This calls for speed and agility that in-house teams are better equipped and enabled to deliver.

“While there’s a windfall of first party data that brands can tap into to do more personalisation, the challenge at hand is to have the ability to capitalise on it into the creative content seamlessly and with speed,” she said.

Leaders play a part in fostering creativity

The topic of talent has been one the marketing and advertising industry has long struggled with. Be it with a creative agency or an in-house team, the resilience and desire to create powerful work starts with having the right mindset and heart to create compelling work for the target audience, said Syed Mohammed Idid, head of strategic stakeholder engagement of PLUS Malaysia – Malaysia’s largest highway concessionaires or build-operate-transfer operator.

While some might be blessed with the creative spark from within, leaders have a big role in cultivating the right mindset.

“Leaders have to stress the importance of self-development and not stick to the status quo of what has been done over the past decade,” he said.

“We’ve got very good team leaders within the organisation and collectively as a team we decided that given [the current economic situation] we are in [with travel restriction] where we don’t have the cash to spend and splurge, we have to create something that’s nice and compelling and that the audiences accept [which drives the team to be more creative].”

He said that while working with a creative agency brings to the table “expansiveness of ideas”, often it is the intimate understanding of the brand DNA at a very granular level which adds that magical spark.

“When you are part of the in-house team, you get the depth of knowledge of the industry, and you know what creative elements you need to inject or the message the audience needs,” he said.

Within the fashion industry, Cathriona Nolan, AVP, creative operations at Pomelo Fashion, said the status quo has long been tossed out the window as the industry has fundamentally seen a major shift in how images and models are now being portrayed. This requires teams to re-educate themselves and get in touch with the new media that people are consuming.

“Most people consume most of their media now on social media, and content tends to be a bit more organic or raw. Marketers need to follow that [trend],” she said.

However, the constant need to feed audiences with quality content while also being on top of any rising trend, has also led to a fair amount of burnout in the industry. Moreover, the fashion industry has long had an issue of a burnout culture because of the long hours and constant churn of content and deliverables. Today the burnout culture is further aggravated because of the rise of the social media machine resulting in the need to produce more content than ever before.

Addressing the issue, Nolan said the first thing she and her team put in place was a reinvention of the calendars and production processes.

“We really had to get our own house in order, in terms of brand and asset guidelines, and put certain processes in place so other channels can take a reactive stance,” she said.

With new mediums popping up every day, when asked what Nolan looks for when recruiting talent, she said her key points revolve around agility, the ability to think big, and of course, thinking out of the box.

“Those skills are much more needed than someone who has had experience in the fashion industry – even though that is our business,” she said.

“I think that’s particularly relevant now more than ever, especially for a business such as ours, where you have to be super active on social media and be really aware of pop culture, current affairs, and whatever is going on.”