How in-house teams and external agencies can work in harmony

We speak to Sky Creative and JKR about why an ‘us vs them’ attitude to the in-house and external agency partnership is outdated, and why the foundations for its success are the same as any relationship

The seemingly unstoppable rise of creative in-housing has been well documented over the last few years. In a 2020 report by the World Federation of Advertisers and the Observatory International, which surveyed 53 major brands, 57% of respondents currently had an in-house agency and a further 17% were considering having one. It’s a trend that has been further cemented in the wake of the pandemic, as brands look to be more cost-efficient and make their creative output more consistent across the board.

While the move towards in-house has led to increasing anxiety among the traditional agency world, as they wonder whether their role will ultimately become obsolete, the long-held view on the other side of the debate is that in-house teams ultimately fail to attract the calibre of talent that exists in creative agencies. The reality, however, is that there’s a place for both. “I’ve got friends that have decided to go that way because they want to affect change from within, and they prefer the focus and the concentration on a single brand. Some of us prefer maybe the variety of work on agency-side. I think that is the fundamental difference, there’s no difference in quality, all of that has gone,” says Ivan Mato, creative director at Jones Knowles Ritchie.

What’s more, the changing overall picture means that in-house teams and external agencies are now increasingly working together as collaborators. Mato, who previously worked in-house at Nokia Design and now leads on much of JKR’s corporate work, says that roughly 70% of the agency’s clients now have some kind of in-house capacity. “It is very much my day-to-day really. From a world where we used to work with marketing managers or brand managers, now you work with other designers and the conversation has shifted as a result. You can still talk strategically about things but it feels like it’s more of a partnership, rather than the classic agency-client model.”

Top and above: Designs for the National Lottery and Ocado by JKR