LONDON: In the wake of many big brands' implementation of in-house creative capabilities, Alex Thom, a management consultant who helped set up the BBC's in-house agency, has argued cost-saving ambitions are not enough; brands need a clear business case and a drive to find and retain the best creative talent.

Writing in a WARC Best Practice paper, How to develop an in-house agency: lessons learned from the launch of BBC Creative, Thom describes the current in-sourcing "trend" in both the US and UK, where just under half of brands now have, or are considering bringing creative capabilities in house.

The savings, he says, can be attractive but argues, "It is important to have strong leadership, ensure talent is the number one priority and keep in mind that the move is a long-term play, an investment in the future.

"In-sourcing," he writes, "is not a one-size-fits-all model for any company – it's to be considered on a case-by-case basis." Namely, brands must objectively evaluate their future strategic requirements, and establish the capabilities necessary to fulfil them.

For the BBC, despite the traditional requirements of TV marketing, the brand needed to react to challenges from new types of marketing. Often, Thom says, "at higher volume, with shorter turnaround times that can require a more in-depth understanding of the business and its brands."

Yet, the right way to maintain the skills was to adopt a "porous model" that built internal expertise for the core capabilities, while allowing budget for specialist freelancers on an ad hoc basis.

Elsewhere, Thom stresses some of the more basic needs of a creative shop that replaces an agency: locating the creative team together and "creating a distinct identity, feel and environment helped to mark a difference in the culture and tone."

In addition, though talent may be the number one priority, brands must consider "if they can acquire and retain the required level of talent," adding that if the salary benchmark can't be matched, "other creative freedoms and opportunities" could be the pull.

Commenting on the BBC's result –a creative shop "delivering savings of over £1m" every year–, Justin Bairamian, Director of BBC Creative, observed that the vision of senior leaders was important, but also the "thorough and methodical approach to building a robust business case" made the corporation's idea a reality.

Data sourced from WARC