How in-house teams can attract the best creative talent

In-house teams are on the rise, but not all brands offer the same creative opportunities – we examine how to draw talent to your company, and keep it

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.”