July 1, 2021

In-House or Agency? The Big Debate


More and more leading brands are taking creative in-house. M&S are one of the more recent converts to this trend, joining PepsiCo and long term adherents Channel 4 and Red Bull..

As with everything in marketing there are theories for and against. And a lack of any real definitive data on success. However there is a middle ground where a production agency that is able to also come up with ideas could be a solution for both in-house and traditional relationships.  

The accepted wisdom is that taking creative in-house saves on money. If you can persuade talented people to work in-house you are saving significant agency fees. The nice offices, the nice biscuits, the ping pong tables and the time the agency spends pitching new business. The right talent though of course is the big ‘if’.

Further accepted wisdom has been that the best talent prefers the variety of working at an agency. But with recent campaigns from Oatly, joining a history of great work from Channel 4, BBC, Chobani (the leading US yoghurt brand) there is much evidence to suggest that the most talented people are not thinking that way anymore.  

In the case of Oatly the in-house creatives feel their success is due to less interference. The other side of that coin is when an in-house project goes wrong such as the Kendall Jenner BLM Pepsi fiasco. That ad desperately needed someone to interfere.

Having a great filter is key to producing great creative work. Agencies believe an outside filter is vital. But sometimes being removed from the product and the manufacturing process leads to second guessing – an over filtering of ideas.

When industries start to change there are opportunities for niche businesses. Oliver will build a quasi in-house experience for clients. Certainly for some brands that makes sense. But this is always from a management point of view, perhaps with some creativity thrown in. We think brands should be thinking about this through the production lens.

We are the in-house creative team for Wildfarmed, an innovative flour company taking the world by storm.

The crux though comes down to capabilities. Brands like Vodafone are on record for saying that they can potentially think up ideas in-house but don’t have the scale to produce that content. Our belief is that modern brands need a lot of content to thrive. They need scale. This is where we believe our offering of mixing creativity with automated production can really bridge the agency gap. We regularly produce, manage and deliver over a million separate images for some of our e-commerce partners.

Scale is one thing but the other way we can bridge the gap is in-house technical expertise. We recently made an AR experience for Kraken rum (launching soon). We had no previous relationship with the brand. An initial meeting led to a great conversation about some of the issues facing the brand. We spent a few days coming up with some top-line ideas. No brief, no planners, just a few ideas, one of which was an Augmented Reality Kraken, let loose by a QR code.

The brand manager loved it. A week later we have a new client. We came up with the idea, did the design, UX, wrote the copy and then built everything in house. Instead of having a creative agency who then employs a production agency to actually build the experience – where feedback tends to be slow and disjointed we had one small team that handled everything.

Increasingly, smart clients want to see how things are made. They are curious and want to learn. With production resources in-house we have nothing to hide. No hidden fees, of course, but more importantly the client has direct access to the people making the experience. In this instance our Creative Directors came up with the idea. Our 3-d Artist made the tentacles and our Creative Technologist stitched it all together. Add in a producer and that’s it. Very lean. Very different.

Kraken AR Experience

There is the assumption that maybe this in-house relationship works for more innovative projects like AR, but not for bread and butter like TV ads. As you might expect we don’t believe that for a minute either. We think we can bridge the gap here too. We recently wrote, produced, directed and edited a TV campaign for Serious Pig, featuring the comedian Joe Wilkinson, entirely in-house. What would normally take at least three months, more likely six, took about six weeks. A crew of four in a pub in Brighton, made this magic.

Our belief is that content is the lifeblood of modern brands. Successful brands need more and more content. We don’t see that decreasing. But we know that the best brands don’t want a reduction in quality either. The way to deliver quality at scale and at the right price is having a small team with deep expertise working directly with a client. No gaps, just a team that knows the shortcuts, keeps everything tight without having to compromise to keep costs down.

Let's Talk

If you would like to know more about how intelligent content creation can help your business please contact us or call (0)161 211 5421.

About Creative Content Works

Creative Content Works, formerly Visual Method, is a full-service content production studio based in Manchester, London & Sofia. We're a team of 96 creative agency, production and technical experts specialising in photorealistic CGI, VFX and strategic content for some of the largest retail and consumer brands in the UK.

We have a simple philosophy… produce great content, at speed and scale, delivered by experts.

We're a passionate team of creative thinkers and tech innovators. We build powerful partnerships with brands, solving creative challenges for a digital future.


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