How brands are taking creative in-house

The phrase “in-house” will soon be as overused as “pivot” as brands cut marketing spend, ditch their agencies and take everything in-house, predicts Hoorah Digital CEO, Shaune Jordaan.

The latest version of corporate bullshit bingo is swimming with words and phrases like “new normal, pivot, WFH” and “digital transformation”. It’s likely the phrase “in-house” will soon take its place alongside them as big corporates pull up the drawbridge on their promotional and advertising spend. So how will big brands talk to their customers? They’re likely to ditch their advertising agencies, according to Hoorah Digital, and build their own in-house version – not only to cut costs; but to pursue a new way of customer engagement, reliant on direct communication than mass media driven.

Hoorah Digital is already preparing for this inevitability and is building the in-house model for its clients, explains CEO Shaune Jordaan, who talks to Retailing Africa about how they are helping clients like Nestle transform during this time; and bring agencies in-house.

Describe your model of swapping outsourcing for in-house expertise…

As the trend towards decentralised production and the in-sourcing of digital and creative work gathers force globally in the marketing and advertising sectors, Hoorah is ahead of the curve having positioned itself firmly in the consultancy space from the get-go. Anticipating the switch from traditional outsourcing, our company made the call early on to leverage our collective skills and capabilities to create a model for other businesses that effectively facilitates their transition back to in-house advertising and marketing.

The role of a digital transformation consultant to brands, such as Nestle in our case, is to offer critical support to businesses seeking to transform their creative elements into a model that is more nimble, more agile, and ultimately, is better prepared to meet the demands of the digital world. The key is to ensure this transition takes place without sacrificing the quality or creativity of the final product. Our approach first identifies the issues, after which we work with the client to develop the core competencies and strategies that the business needs to not only function, but to flourish in a digital reality.

What is your edge here in building this in-house capability for clients?

Data intelligence has always been central to our philosophy and is core to the consultancy work we do with brands to build their in-house capability. The backbone of this capability is a data-based studio that can use data effectively. So, when we build an in-house studio for a brand, much of the focus is on helping their team understand dashboard reporting, and how to deep dive to identify trends and provide insights into what matters most to their customers. Social listening is a key part of understanding what clients want and need, before taking that information and crafting it into a creative product.

Where does the value lie in this approach?

While data is the foundation on which the in-house agency is built, the creative execution – how that data is turned into something meaningful and relatable – is where the real value lies. Whether the tool for doing this is animation, AR, VR and something more traditional and lo-tech, is of secondary importance. The secret to helping brands build in-house capability is ensuring they appreciate that a data-led approach is what ultimately makes the work more effective. This is because it will be relevant to customers’ needs and preferences, with creative delivery just the cherry on top.

Explain how you collaborate with clients to ensure delivery…

Working collaboratively is the only way we know how to work. It’s how we achieve the best results for clients. Each client is unique, so the objective is to always ensure the highest level of understanding of their business requirements, while demonstrating agility to drive measurable cost benefits.

Importantly, brands can’t assume that by simply hiring a digital person they’re getting the necessary skill set to build in-house capability. It takes a team of digital veterans – people who are at the top of their respective games – to guide and advise businesses on how to bring these capabilities back home. We’re proud of the fact that we’ve managed to attract some of the industry’s top talent, people who have built agencies and brands and who know what it takes to be real, to be relevant and to ensure this happens in a way that drives revenue.

What does ‘digital transformation’ mean today, in the shadow of Covid?

Digital transformation is about solutions, and any sector that fails to make the change, risks falling far behind. Remember that digital transformation is not limited to the tools and the technology either, but also references an approach to business leadership that values innovation, solutions and a future-forward ethos. When we work with brands, we are committed to helping them understand why it makes the most business sense to bring their media technology in-house, and how it benefits the business.

The move towards “in-housing” is unlikely to go away any time soon and has the potential to be severely disruptive for agencies. In short, it’s forcing the industry to rethink what is increasingly becoming an outdated, resource-intensive business model.


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