New research from digital asset management software Lytho reveals that in-house creative agencies are showing signs of organizational maturation. The firm’s new report, Creative Management Report: How In-House Brand and Creative Teams are Evolving, is based on a survey finding more than half (57 percent) of creative and marketing professionals indicated their creative team is functioning largely as an in-house agency, regularly involved in strategy and original concepting—a 14 percent improvement from 12 months ago—as well as tactical and production work.
The findings are noteworthy because businesses have consolidated creative work internally for years—but many have wrestled with the natural complexity of building out these specialized teams and integrating them into the larger organization.
Indeed, not all in-house agencies are finding the same level of success. About one-third (32 percent) of respondents indicated their in-house agency is still evolving. These teams characterized their responsibilities as mostly focused on tactical projects—with some strategic work. Further, another 11 percent of respondents said their team is entirely focused on production and received all strategy and direction from external partners.
The study also revealed obstacles remain—even among some of the more mature in-house agencies. For example, 64 percent of respondents said stakeholders struggle to completely understand the value proposition of internal creative teams. Further, internal clients aren’t always inclined to follow creative processes established by in-house agencies. This often leads to burnout on creative teams as unclear requests and unexpected changes create more work in the face of already-tight timelines.
“Many creative teams have evolved from simple production studios to influential in-house agencies and strategic partners to the business,” said Russ Somers, Lytho CMO, in a news release. “But perception lags reality, as it often does. There’s still work to be done in educating stakeholders and internal clients about how best to work with these more-empowered teams.”
Creative teams are keenly aware of these process challenges and the disruption these cause to efficient creative operations. Many have diligently worked to improve internal creative processes. Among these were improving project kick-off meetings (35 percent), setting up project templates (35 percent), better defining roles and responsibilities of individual team members (33 percent), documenting their processes (31 percent) and improving creative briefs (31 percent).
Some of the additional findings and detail from the report include the following:
Many in-house agencies expect to grow the size of their teams
Some 38 percent of respondents said they expect the number of people on their in-house agency to grow over the next 12 months. Just 1% said the size of their team would shrink.
Expanding both traditional and digital creative capabilities
Respondents expect their teams to expand traditional capabilities such as creative strategy (31 percent), marketing and communications strategy (19 percent), and brand management (16 percent). In addition, they plan to increase digital capabilities including digital design (15 percent), social media design (12 percent) and web design (8 percent).
Stakeholders struggle to understand the value proposition
When asked, “Do stakeholders understand your team’s value proposition?” just 32 percent answered “yes.” A plurality (40 percent) said “almost” but it’s something the team is working to communicate. Finally, about one-quarter (24 percent) answered “no.”
Stakeholder adherence to creative processes
While 39 percent of respondents characterized stakeholder adherence to processes as high (34 percent) or very high (5 percent), nearly half (46 percent) labeled this a “work in progress.” Another 15 percent said process adherence was low or not happening at all.
The top challenges facing in-house creative agencies
The top challenges facing creatives are tight deadlines (48 percent), unclear or incomplete project requests (40 percent) and unexpected changes to projects that are almost complete (38 percent).
“Unclear requests and unexpected changes to work create more work for in-house teams during already-tight timelines,” added Somers. “Creative leaders can recommend process improvements to help their team and internal clients work better together – but stakeholders need to understand the reason for these processes in order for them to get the full strategic benefit from their creative teams.”
Lytho conducted the poll, which is part of a quarterly research initiative, in May and June 2022. The vast majority of respondents (89 percent) work in creative roles while 10 percent are marketers. Many respondents serve in leadership roles; more than half (56 percent) are managers.