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Tectonic Shifts and The New Paradigm

There is no more exciting time to be a creative professional than now. If you haven’t noticed yet, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in the creative industry. Some of the best creative work in design, advertising, photography and video has been coming from in-house teams for many years now. This has only escalated the shift of corporations leveraging in-house talent more than I can ever remember in my 25-year career. Those of us who are in-house, or serve the in-house community, have been saying it for longer than the seven years this report has been produced — in-house is growing. From my perspective, in-house is really just coming of age. We’re finding our stride, and the rest of the industry is settling into a new operating model.

When we say “in-house is growing,” we don’t just mean that in-house teams are growing per-se. In fact, many teams are about the same size now as they have been for the last few years. No, when we say “in-house is growing” we mean to say that our accountability to the companies we work for, and the responsibility to the brands we serve, is greater now – and increasing – more than ever before. More accountability naturally means more projects of all kinds are coming our way, but without increased headcount, how is it going to get done? We’re going to have to send it out.

That’s not really new information to us, but the real shift we are seeing is this: Outside agencies were once managed by marketing without the involvement of in-house creative counterparts. Now, thanks to years of sweat equity and proving themselves, in-house creative groups are tasked with managing those same outside agency relationships. The very same agencies we used to view as our competitors are now under our management. In this new era, we see the in-house creative leader partnering with the outside agency creative leader more often than they ever did in the past. And the work is better for it.

What’s more, the shift in accountability to in-house teams also brings a shift in the division of labor. As more in-house teams increase their project management – or should we say creative operations - capabilities, they find that it is often more effective (and less costly) to assign work out to smaller, specialized, nimble studios and freelance resources. As such, agencies are finding the need to change their models too in order to better support and partner with their in-house counterpart/clients.

Yes, it’s a brave new world. And any agency – in-house or outside – that isn’t adapting to the new model our industry appears to be settling into is going to find themselves facing greater challenges. It’s no longer us vs. them, in-house vs. outside agencies. No, the brands that win will have in-house and outside creative partnerships. And the work and creative opportunities will be better for it.


Andy Brenits

Andy is the President of InSource, the professional association for in-house creative leadership and management. He is an experienced branding and creative strategist with extensive in-house leadership experience. He has built and led several creative teams for major brands such as Banana Republic, The Gap, National Football League, KPMG, and Arizona Public Service. He is also an advisor to the HOW Design Live conference who speaks, writes and consults on creative management issues.