Lexus marketer: In-housing boosts creativity through 'corridor conversations'

Brand communications manager Emma Lane says she is sold on in-housing after two years.

Panel: Brown, Lane, Garton, Whitmarsh and Flint
Panel: Brown, Lane, Garton, Whitmarsh and Flint

Advertising Week Europe heard a strongly positive take on in-housing from a panel put together by The & Partnership that featured its client Lexus, three of its own employees and Verizon Media’s Stuart Flint.

Emma Lane, brand communications manager at Lexus, said that after having worked 15 years "in the old way" and two years so far with a 30-strong team from The & Partnership based in her office, she would not go back.

Lane said the "revolutionary" part of having the agency on site was the greater ease of having what had earlier been referred to as "corridor conversations" – that is fluid discussions about work.

"We’ve got two creatives on site," she told Ben Brown, the panel moderator who had led the project to embed agency teams in Toyota and Lexus' 19 EMEA offices as EMEA lead for the account at M/SIX, The & Partnership's media agency.

"[Embedding those creatives] has allowed them to be much bolder in their ideas, because they know us and our business. There is real trust there. In the old model, you never would have seen the creatives, or rarely."

Lane agreed strongly with a point made by Robin Garton, executive creative director at Pulse Creative, the agency that The & Partnership has embedded in News UK.

Garton said one of the creative advantages of being on site with his client was the ease of tailoring a process to a particular project.

"In the agency model, work starts at the bottom, then goes up a ladder, then across and then up another ladder. [In-house] you can cut corners on some of that and you can have conversations with the people you need at the moment you need to, whether that’s a corridor conversation or a quick meeting. It’s so much easier to go: ‘This isn’t going to work, but what if we do it like that?’"

That brought agreement from Dan Whitmarsh, global chief strategy officer at M/SIX. He said: "For me, 50% of the value of embedding an agency is the corridor conversation. Part of the reason for setting one up is to remove the need for set pieces and waiting for an agency to be able to meet.

"An ECD can bump into a data analyst and say ‘I’ve had an idea but I have no idea how to prove it’ and then half-an-hour later, you have proved it and then that goes into the next meeting you have when you go and talk to the client."

Another advantage, Garton added, was that understanding "the tone of a brand is really important and that’s something you pick up from life there".

However, Flint, vice-president for EMEA and Latin America at Verizon Media, said that although in-housing has a future, that does not mean the old agency model is broken.

"In-housing is happening in pockets. It feels like we’re moving back to a full-service model, whether it’s in-house or out-house, because of the demands clients are putting on us," he said. "It is absolutely relevant to media owners – we have to flex and bend to this new approach."

However, Flint clarified that in-housing was focused on changes in digital rather than traditional media.

"This is for digital rather than, say, TV," he explained, observing that the industry can tend to cluster around the next big thing, like five-year-olds playing football, at the risk of leaving space in the rest of the pitch.

Flint also cautioned that he didn’t see in-housing working for all clients, and if every brand were to adopt it, it would pose a problem for Verizon Media in terms of meeting clients.

"How do we rep clients in this model? We don’t mind taking a trip to Epsom [where Lexus is based], but there comes a point where if everybody did it, it would become more difficult to facilitate."