In her recent Cella In-House Agency (IHA) Leadership Summit session, our Vice President and General Manager, Jackie Schaffer, gave attendees a detailed look at in-house industry trends and how they are affecting the future of the IHA. A section of that presentation is especially relevant to IHA leaders at this time of year. In it, Jackie defined and expanded on the “why” of in-house. Why do we and our teams exist, what value do we bring to our companies and most importantly, what value will we bring to our companies? These questions frame up a proactive approach to determining your IHA’s destiny.

The Four Pillars of the IHA Value Proposition
It starts with the standard points of the familiar value triangle – cost, quality and speed. Every IHA knows that their team is expected to be held accountable for all three of these points, or pillars (especially cost and speed, since Procurement has taken on a more active role in securing creative services). In recent years, Cella introduced a fourth pillar that IHAs should also address: adaptability. No one can argue the fact that companies, and their expectations of the in-house agency, are constantly changing—as are technology, the larger marketplace and the communication platforms used to interact internally with employees and externally with customers. The ability to adjust to a changing environment became so integral to the success of the IHA, it was imperative to include adaptability as a fourth foundational value component. 

Hopefully, your IHA has taken these four pillars of the value proposition to heart and established a team and culture to support them; however, Cella believes that even these four expectations don’t fully capture the potential of today’s in-house agencies. While they are all critical to our teams’ achievements, they are all, in fact, reactive in nature. As we go into the new year, we have the opportunity to proactively define and redefine ourselves. So we suggest that our original triangle, which then became a diamond, should now (appropriately) become a five-point star.

What's the state of your IHA's value proposition?

The New, Fifth Pillar 
What is this fifth point that will help us determine our collective future? Well, it’s more nuanced than the previous four and is unique to each IHA. This means that an honest assessment of your business is needed before you can define what that fifth pillar should be.  

To share what we are seeing in the industry, here are five possible elements to consider, each one becoming increasingly important to the IHA’s end clients: 

  • Ownership of a greater part of the marketing process, which means using data farther upstream in the creative process to drive outcomes via dynamic content.
  • Accountability for the success of creative and continuous improvements of the IHA’s creative approach, based on data learnings.
  • Control by bringing more work to the in-house agency, enabling marketing organizations to more effectively control their campaigns with an enhanced ability to better measure results and ROI on campaign spend.
  • Transparency and clear insight into the operational workings of the IHA, allowing for detailed reporting against KPIs and the ability to identify opportunities for operational improvements.
  • Trust built through a laser focus on account management and flawless execution of creative deliverables.

Your fifth pillar may be one of these—or it may be something else that is unique to your IHA—but the above list should get your thoughts started.

Multidimensionality and Your Value Proposition
Another suggestion Cella has, as you begin 2020, is to look at your IHA and value proposition through a different lens—by understanding the various dimensions of the work you do. In other words:

  • Who are your assorted audiences? Are you going to create communications for B2C, B2B and/or B2E?
  • What tiers will you staff up to take on? Ground-up Tier 1 creative? Tier 2 work repurposing previously designed assets and/or hard-core production projects edging into the realm of Tier 3 deliverables?
  • Which new and trending services or capabilities will your IHA evolve to offer? Is video a growing need within the organization? What about virtual and augmented reality? And how will you harness data to individualize the content created?

The answers to these questions, along with the definition of your fifth pillar, will help determine where your team will live within your company – as a decoupled production house, a jack of all trades shared services team or a strategic partner with a seat at the table. All are valid positions, and we recommend that you incorporate all of the above to create an IHA value proposition with longevity. 

Take this opportunity to work with your team to explore and answer the questions above. Expand your value proposition on your own terms rather than being unwittingly pigeonholed by stakeholders who don’t truly understand creative services. In the end, you will have a focus that identifies how and where your team can be a consistent high-value, high-performing partner to your marketing and communications organizations. 

If your IHA needs help truly defining your value proposition, let us know. We’re happy to help.