Don’t throw Banana Cream Pies from Glass Towers
By Ed Roberts
I remember the day clearly; I was sitting in my office on the top floor of a glass tower overlooking the city. Several of the agency’s designers, writers, account executives and I were reviewing a tear sheet of an ad placed by our client that deviated greatly from the one we developed. Collectively the team thought, “WTF, where’s our ad!?” We were told the client—at the eleventh hour—chose to go with a concept created by their in-house team. Wham! It wasn’t easy wiping all that proverbial banana cream pie off our faces. Even though I commiserated with the eye rolling and contemptuous sighs, deep down I knew the client chose the right solution. I also knew our agency could no longer throw confectionary concepts loaded with empty calories to our clients and expect them to say, “May we have seconds please?” This particular in-house team served up a substantive entree of a concept infused with a mix of insightful strategy and solid messaging tactics that was also beautifully crafted.
I believe one of the greatest advantages in-house teams have over outside agencies is their access to the right decision makers. If the in-house manager has set clear objectives that coincide well with their organization’s goals and acquired the right talent, that in-house team’s creative will be chosen over an outside agency's creative in a head-to-head matchup every time. Why? Again, it comes down to open access. Smart in-house managers (and their teams) know who the real movers and shakers are within their organizations. It's not always the usual suspects that the outside agencies salivate over like you've seen on AMC's new reality show "The Pitch" (and my newest guilty pleasure), a show more compelling in the first six minutes than the tedious "Mad Men" could ever muster in sixty minutes. Sorry, I digress.
Innies know the nerdy engineers, the anal retentive accountants, the stressed out product managers, the sparkly toothed sales force and even the gate keeping administrative assistants—to name a few—are the real leaders of their organizations. It's these individuals who do all the heavy lifting and make the outward facing CEO, COO and SVP look so good—and maybe even a little smarter too. Any engaged innie knows a lot of key information can be shared over a cup of coffee in the kitchen, during lunch at the local sports bar, or simply walking down the hall. These invaluable encounters can seriously help in-house teams develop smart, winning creative.
Most successful in-house teams are entrenched in the culture of their organizations. Each knowledgeable member of the team is required to breathe life into the tactics that make up those broader strategies that impact the organization's brand. At the end of the day, highly functioning, well-connected and entrenched in-house teams are dangerous to the bottom line of many outside agencies.
Several years ago I got tired of throwing banana cream pies from glass towers and took a job in-house. I’ve enjoyed helping build the credibility of my in-house team and being focused more on producing strategically-focused work and making genuinely solid connections with the right decision makers—convincing them that our in-house agency team is not only hugely talented but also necessary to the success of our organization. I still like making banana cream pies, but only to be eaten by my co-workers at office parties.