These days, many brands are developing in-house departments to meet their increasingly demanding content needs. The thinking is that by having production close to home, they can make things… cheap, fast, AND good. It’s a trend – an experiment that many small and large businesses are implementing (e.g. Hilton, Heineken, AB/In-Bev, etc. are all building out their in-house departments).
And I bet many of them find success with it, and I bet a few of them fail, too. Not because I want that to happen (certainly part of our business is helping our clients create content, but we really get paid for ideas.), but because so much of what I read about this in-house experiment is focused on the efficiency of the move – the idea that a business can shave six or more figures off of their marketing costs. However, what I don’t hear much of, is people talking about how much better or more effective their content will be.
But, I do think the in-house experiment can work! And I support the businesses that are trying. And for those brave enough to do so, I thought I’d offer some advice from our nearly 20 years of running studios and production teams, and making kick-ass content for networks, the big screen, the small screen, and some of the biggest brands in the world. Today, I thought I’d focus on what a brand can do to make their in-house content not only cheap and fast but also good. So, if you’re bringing your content production in-house, here are few things to remember when setting up your in-house department:
1 – You’re building a creative studio, not a manufacturing line – Put some vitality in the place! Culture is important. Remember, you’re not hiring ‘order-takers’, you’re hiring content creators. This is a huge advantage – to have creative minds in your business – but you have to treat them as such. Creative people aren’t motivated by the potential to save a company money, they’re motivated to create something great. Agencies know this, and they invest a lot of time, energy, and money in cultivating an environment that fosters great work. This note applies especially to those marketers who say they plan to have an agency bringing them ‘world-class creative’ that the in-house team will then ‘version’ or ‘execute’. Sounds like drudgery to me. Yes, your in-house department can save you money and help you make many more ‘pieces of content’, but the real potential lies in your in-house team’s ideas. If you think of your team as a ‘pair of hands’, either for you or your external agency, you will have a very unmotivated and uninspired team. Just think of the turnover.
2 – Make room for the fire – I realize you’ll have specific needs for all the different channels, and that much of your team’s time will be dedicated to cranking out the :06, :15 and :30 videos, along with all of the stills and banners that go with it – that’s part of the gig. But if you also remember to give your team some time to try new things, you will not only engage them and make them happier to be working in your corporate office (let’s all admit it’s hard to find young, creative thinkers excited to work in a corporate environment over a long period of time), but your team will also divine some gold. Innovation and creativity require time and stimulus, so build it into your plan. Get your team new equipment, send them on trips to capture local content, and challenge them to pitch you on big ideas. By bringing production in-house, you are physically and figuratively separating the creative and production departments, (who have naturally been integrating over the past few years, as content has become more of what creative does/is), and you’ll need to make up for that by giving your team extra room to be creative.
3 – The World is Your Studio – Assuming you’ve figured out how to crush it at creating and distributing your own content, make sure you also have a plan for sharing the content created by your biggest fans. We’ve discovered that some of our best content comes from the people who love our brand most, and we have a system in place to make sure we recognize it and share it regularly. This is what engagement is all about – finding and connecting with the people who support your brand, and inviting them to come along on the journey.
As Frank Amorese, USA media director of Heineken, noted in a recent article, "It’s been challenging to know what the studio is going to do and what it’s not going to do… Conceptually, it’s easy to grasp, but when the rubber meets the road, drawing that line is really tough.” The pain point for brands isn’t knowing that an in-house agency could be a good idea - obviously bringing production in-house can make it cheaper, and obviously, it can help teams make it ‘faster’ (i.e. more responsive, more nimble and more productive). The real question is - will make it better? Or, will consumers start to lose interest and drift off? The expectation for content to be outstanding is only increasing. Exactly how can you make an in-house studio a success? The answer to that question will determine success or failure.