The seemingly innocent, yet knowingly loaded, question "what is the name of your in-house creative team" led many passionate creative leaders to respond beyond the five-question pulse survey we launched this past May. The controversy? The inclusion of "Services" as part of a team's name. One leader put it simply by asking if Marketing or Public Relations included "Services" in their names. It's a really interesting point that you can extrapolate across other functions as well: Human Resources, IT or Information Technology, Payroll, etc.

Uncertain About the Perfect In-House Creative Team Name?

So what is it about "services" that gets us all riled up? The definition of service is "the action of helping or doing work for someone." It may be the inclusion of "for someone" that doesn't sit right. We are doing work for our company, for the brand--not for the woman in the office down the hall, she is simply the conduit for the project. It may also be that service and subservient are too closely related, and our teams are certainly not "subordinate" or "prepared to obey others unquestioningly." In fact, our goal is to ask really smart questions that further the messaging and reach of the communications we are creating in partnership with our colleagues.

The Responses
We received more than 100 responses to our pulse survey that we narrowed down to 98 by eliminating known duplicates (responses by individuals at the same company known to work on the same creative team). We learned that while team names vary greatly, 43% of teams are called "Creative Services." An additional 5% include "Creative Services" as part of their team name (e.g., Branding & Creative Services). And yet still several other teams include "services" as part of their name (e.g., Communication Services), bringing the total to 52% of responding groups with "services" in their team name. So while there is considerable discussion around the word "services," it is extremely common for teams to include the word in their name. Other words with some popularly:

  • Creative: 68%
  • Marketing: 11% (MarComm counted)
  • Communications: 9% (MarComm counted here as well)
  • Design: 10%
  • Web/Interactive/Digital: 6%

In addition to the more traditional naming conventions above, we also saw the inclusion of "brand," "global," and "agency" in several responses. Furthermore, the following team names drew my attention:

  • The Studio: to me, "studio" suggests a professional working environment for creatives and helps elevate the team
  • "Creative Network" and "The Hive": what creative team isn't a hub or network of the company's great ideas and communications?
  • Design Center of Excellence: some may say that "design" is a limiting parameter on the team's capabilities, but assuming design is the core function of the team, I love the forthrightness that the team comprises the center of excellence
  • Office of Strategic Communications & Marketing: it's a mouthful, but it's direct about the team's intention to be strategic
  • The Agency: while simple, it's to the point and positions the internal team as a full-service, competitive agency

Trending Notes
In the last 12 months, seven of the responding groups changed their names--none chose "Creative Services" as their name. One did rename themselves "Digital Marketing & Creative Services," but no others included the word "services" in their new name.

Thirty-two respondents indicated their team underwent a name change in the past 1-3 years with almost half selecting "Creative Services" or a variant of it. Most tellingly, of the teams who have not had a name change in more than 5 years, 68% are called "Creative Services."

While the past 12 months shows a potential new trend, the data for the period prior shows that "Creative Services" is still a popular choice. And for many it is likely a good choice, but as Tony Fernandez, Jr., Senior Director of The Agency at Marriott Worldwide Vacations, points out "The issue here is evolution and perception. If you work for a company that started out with a creative services team that handled production jobs and simple collateral, and that's what you still produce, then rebranding yourself would make no sense. However, if your team has evolved, and today they deliver complex, multi-channel campaigns, brand development, media buying and the like, and your team still carries a creative services moniker, then you should consider repositioning yourselves to reflect your current state."

Charlie Bory, Senior Director of Creative Operations at DIRECTV, aptly added to the same conversation "it is not so much if you are an Agency or Creative Services but that your team has gained the trust and respect of your clients. If you achieve that, then you have a winning team!"