By Alixandra Rutnik on May 19, 2021
Tracy Stallard, Jess Kirkman, and Christian Haas discuss details about what goes on in-house
There once was a time when the thought of going "in-house," of taking one's career to the client-side of the business, was enough to make an advertising agency creative shudder. There was a nagging and perhaps not unfounded concern that you just wouldn't have the freedom to get really imaginative when you're that close to the brand.
A lot has changed in recent years, and not only has going "brand-side" become a viable option for envelope-pushing talent, but it's also where some of the most creative work is coming from. We at The One Club for Creativity have recognized it in both The One Show and ADC Annual Awards' own In-House disciplines, and next month's Creative Week will feature panels dedicated to life on the brand-side of things.
Between these two initiatives, we hosted WITHIN, our first-ever conference dedicated to brands with their own internal creative departments. It proved to be a success, as the conference spotlighted what we know will become an increasingly robust segment of the One Club community.
After WITHIN, we had an opportunity to catch up with three of its impressive cast of speakers — draftLine’s Global Vice President Tracy Stallard; Taco Bell Design’s Executive Creative Director Jess Kirkman; and YouTube’s Executive Creative Director Christian Haas — to delve a little deeper into the world of brand-side creative work.
Tracy, Jess, and Christian each shared a unique and valuable lesson about doing creative work within their brand. Hiring “T-Shaped Talent” for draftLine was one of Tracy’s focal points in her WITHIN presentation: “T-Shaped Talent is critical to our vision of building an agency that supports a modern marketing team. To achieve this, we are challenging people with deep skill sets to work in new ways– individuals with a core specialization, but also a curiosity to learn about other marketing disciplines and rethink the way they utilize their specialization.” These are the kind of people who bring the energy to draftLine’s brand.
"T-Shaped Talent is critical to our vision of building an agency that supports a modern marketing team. To achieve this, we are challenging people with deep skill sets to work in new ways."
After WITHIN, it is clear Taco Bell’s Design studio has got it going on. Jess highlighted how they define how to break the brand rules at TBD, which promotes stellar creativity and leads to beautiful work. “The key to keeping the creative team inspired is all about making sure every person feels valued, heard, and acknowledged. Creating a small family allows everyone to leave their egos at the door and truly collaborate to produce breakthrough work that has heart and soul. It’s always important to have a solid base of brand guidelines, but knowing how and where to flex those to have a bit of fun is the job of a great creative leader,” Jess elaborated.
"It’s always important to have a solid base of brand guidelines, but knowing how and where to flex those to have a bit of fun is the job of a great creative leader."
To create a distinctive brand-side culture, Jess knows that “unlocking the passions of your teammates is crucial to creating the best work. When people feel personally invested in the work they are making, they are more motivated, more inspired, and more creative.” She also confidently added, “The future of agency culture is coming in-house. Top-notch talent is starting to see the value of working for a brand– the ownership that creatives get from working in-house is something that can’t be replicated in traditional agencies.”
"The future of agency culture is coming in-house. Top-notch talent is starting to see the value of working for a brand– the ownership that creatives get from working in-house is something that can’t be replicated in traditional agencies."
At WITHIN, Christian claimed he would never go client-side, and now he’s at Google advocating for brand-side creative teams to not take themselves too seriously. “When you are working inside a brand, you have a much deeper and wider perspective on the problems you’re trying to solve. You’re right there seeing where the product is going, kind of like eating at the Chef’s counter instead of getting takeout sushi.” Christian said.
"When you are working inside a brand, you have a much deeper and wider perspective on the problems you’re trying to solve."
He added, “Humor is disarming. Some brands are natural-born self-deprecating creatures. Oatly, Burger King, Harvey Nichols, and Old Spice come to mind, but some brands don’t have a single funny bone in their body– and that’s okay. Play to your truths. You don’t want to end up being the one brand telling dad jokes at the party. Unless that’s a dads-only party, then go for it. You’ll have a captive audience.”
WITHIN is only the start of building a solid brand-side community at The One Club for Creativity. To keep the positive momentum going, we need to “connect people to debate visions, opportunities, and learnings," Tracy explained. She also believes “The One Show can play a large role in highlighting talent and sharing work based on the visions of in-house agencies.”
Jess added “WITHIN is a great tool to meet other in-house leaders and teams and share the struggles and successes to build a better culture for the in-house model.” The bottom line, expect more WITHIN-type conferences from The One Club for Creativity, because brand-side creative teams are no joke anymore– in-house work is here to stay and it keeps getting better. If you're debating going brand-side remember the three small lessons from these three phenomenal in-house leaders: hire T-Shaped Talent, define how to break your brand rules, and don’t take your brand too seriously.
"WITHIN is a great tool to meet other in-house leaders and teams and share the struggles and successes to build a better culture for the in-house model."
If you missed WITHIN, you’re in luck because we recorded all the sessions for you!