Mark Bown, executive creative director at AB InBev’s internal creative agency, draftLine Europe, is the first to admit he ended up working in-house by accident. When a friend who already worked there asked him to come in and help out for a few weeks, he thought ABI was just another ad agency acronym. Four years later and draftLine Europe has grown from a team of ten people across all functions to 95, allowing the department to devise and deliver more original work than ever before for the drinks company’s many well-known brands.
Although he was never a believer that working brand-side is any less creative – his first job was as an in-house art director at music label Creation Records – Bown has been surrounded by those attitudes throughout his career. “I think there has always been a perception of, ‘well if you use in-house, then you’re getting an inferior product, because if these people that are in-house were really good, they would be at the top agencies’,” he says. He experienced this first hand while working at Creation Records. “The bands needed a lot of convincing to actually use me because [they figured], ‘well, he’s in-house so he’s not going to be any good. We want whoever, Peter Saville, to do our record sleeve, we don’t want Mark. We don’t know who he is’.
“So I know what that prejudice is like, and in some respects, I do understand it. I can see it. But the people that I’ve hired are the top creatives that I’ve convinced to leave their agencies to come and work in-house,” he says. “Because when I decided I was going to stay [at draftLine Europe] for the long term after freelancing, my objective was to build one of the best in-house agencies that I could, because I still want to fill my book with wonderful work.”