ANA Marketing Maestros: The In-House Agency Advantage
The recent ANA report, Creative Messaging Development and Production Given COVID-19, revealed that in reaction to the crisis, over 90 percent of brands surveyed are modifying their messaging to be less sales and product focused and more sensitive to consumers’ welfare and the evolving situation, both in the near term and continuing into at least the near future.
To that end, the survey shows that brands are actually getting work produced, albeit with challenges and significant limits on what is possible from a production point of view.
One of the most interesting insights in the report was that over 50 percent of brands surveyed identified their in-house agencies as the “most important” resource for producing new creative assets.
Clearly, brands with robust in-house teams that are already up-and-running are finding them to be an important resource for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the reason for this may be that some brands are simply trying to save money in every way possible because revenue is down, and the in-house agency can do creative work with internal FTE’s, but the numbers in the survey indicate that there is much more to it than that.
Communicating with customers, communicating internally, and communicating with the industry resources and suppliers that you need to be successful are all especially important now while the industry is in crisis management mode. In many large companies, these functions are often siloed between PR, Marketing, Corporate Communications, Integrated Marketing, Procurement, and other teams. This is the ideal time for an internal agency to take on the responsibility of coordinating these differing communication paths and ensuring that the company is speaking with a consistent voice.
One side effect of this can be that an internal agency that steps up to fill this role now is positioned to maintain a broader universe of internal clients going forward. This is an opportunity for the IHA to own a more central role, and perhaps contribute as well to the long-term goal of breaking down silos within the organization.
It has always been true that in-house agencies are the most reliable resource for commoditized work, but the need to turn messaging around quickly while maintaining consistent brand stewardship means that in-house agencies will be better positioned to deliver results quickly and consistently.
As internal agencies are responding effectively to circumstances in the moment, they can also work internally to develop a detailed plan for how to get up to speed when the dust settles and identify key resources that will prove valuable later. A marketing organization that already has a plan in place to ramp up production will experience less confusion and dislocation if their in-house agency has developed an internal plan. Two features of the marketing execution process that will probably come back with a vengeance once this situation starts to resolve itself are unrealistic timelines and unreasonable expectations, so better to have a plan than improvise on the fly.
Some of the most common medical procedures used in emergency rooms today were originally battlefield innovations that were developed out of necessity. Most of the work that is getting produced right now involves repurposing existing material, working with stock footage, or some combination of the two, but brands will soon need to start developing compelling creative to stand out from their competitors. This will mean pushing forward with innovative or unfamiliar post-production solutions and experimenting with new technologies and platforms. Now is the time to experiment internally with work streams and types of messaging that can be used effectively as the situation continues to unfold. Lower cost and less risk make the in-house agency the ideal resource to utilize for entertaining new ideas and experimenting with new tools.
As with all crisis situations, there are challenges for the industry, and unfortunately, a lot of people are already negatively affected, and more will be before this is over.
At the same time, this will eventually resolve itself, and there will be opportunities along the way.
Let’s make sure we deal with the challenges as professionally as possible, and let’s also make sure we don’t miss the opportunity to make the business better for it.