If a company is designed to create 30-minute TV programmes, how hard can it be for it to make a 30-second ad? And if creating entire magazines is a business' lifeblood, then surely it can come up with a one-page press ad?
Media owners have long professed their advertising credentials - usually to agency derision. However, things are changing. In 2005, Channel 4's in-house agency, 4creative, picked up accolades including D&AD, Creative Circle and Campaign Press and Poster Awards, while Red Bee Media (the new name for BBC Broadcast) has won a British Television Advertising Awards gold and a Creative Circle silver for its non-BBC clients.
With media owners such as The Guardian bringing their promotion in-house, media companies are becoming increasingly aware that they have a creative resource that's ripe to be exploited. But is simply being creative enough to make a business good at creating ads?
Richard Burdett, the head of 4creative, believes it makes sense for media companies to take their advertising in-house. "For Channel 4, creativity is in the life-blood," he says. "It could claim to be more creative and risk-taking than the average advertising agency and is definitely more so than the average client."
Charlie Mawer, the executive creative director at Red Bee Media, adds: "In a creative organisation there are just more opinions at work. Everyone has an idea because they are all accustomed to working in a creative environment."
And these opinions are often very different to those that would come from an ad agency. Most staff at media owners' in-house creative departments do not come from advertising agency backgrounds - which could either be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on your perspective.
Creatives at Red Bee Media, for example, come from musical, stage and animation backgrounds, and Mawer says this gives them a different approach to creativity. "It doesn't necessarily improve the creative," he says.
"It just means we have a fresh approach to problem-solving because our staff aren't trained to think in a certain way."
And there are other advantages for these clients in having their agency just down the corridor. An inside team at a media company has a clear knowledge of the brand they are promoting, and an even better understanding of the audience they are talking to.
Marc Sands, the marketing director of Guardian Creative, points out that most of his team have worked at the publisher for eight or nine years and so know the brand inside out. "We have built up a group of people who live within the brand and who understand it and what its future is. An agency is always external to that process," he says.
Cost is another obvious factor and Sands concedes that price was a motivation in The Guardian's decision to move its direct marketing in-house. When RSVP Creative claims it can create and buy a TV spot for a mere £20,000, it becomes even easier to justify an inside job.
Using an in-house agency is not always appropriate - 4creative has to battle it out in pitches against external agencies on big projects - but there's no doubt the media newcomers are starting to make their mark. Here are five of the best.
As an in-house ad agency, 4creative is in a league of its own. It pitches against mainstream shops, its work frequently wins awards and over the past 18 months it has become a respected player, even by traditional agency standards.
But it hasn't always been that way. Richard Burdett, the head of 4creative, says that until a few years ago, Campaign readers were unlikely to have even heard of his agency. "The transition is all to do with the creative," he says.
Over the past 18 months, 4creative has changed its model, resulting in improved output. Instead of a traditional creative department, 4creative uses freelances. It has four full-time creatives in its 16-strong team - the others are in account handling and production.
The ads it has produced using this model are testament to its effectiveness.
The agency's work for Channel 4's Shameless series won silver at the Campaign Poster Awards and its brand idents for the channel have scooped various accolades. Burdett points to other highlights such as the posters for Jamie Oliver's Italian cookery series and trailers for the drama series Lost.
"The creative process is about selling the spirit of the show. We've learnt that there's no point selling a storyline," he explains. "The Lost trails were inspired by Jack Vettriano's paintings of butlers dancing on a beach. The trails (which showed Lost characters dancing on an island) got across the disturbing air of mystery implicit in the show."
But not all of Channel 4's work is created in-house. DDB London won the pitch for the recent launch of its More4 channel.
"Channel 4 isn't forced to use 4creative, and that's good," Burdett says.
"It means that when it does use us, it really wants to." It also suggests that for Channel 4, the work, not cost-cutting, is the priority.
Burdett explains that the 4creative/Channel 4 relationship is run exactly like a normal agency/client relationship. "We are targeted to make money, we are in different physical locations and Channel 4 doesn't have to use us," he says.
Key executives: Richard Burdett, head of 4creative (pictured); Brett Foraker, executive creative director.
Employees: 16 - four in creative, six in account handling, five in production and one in admin.
Major clients: Channel 4 brands plus sponsorship idents for clients including Direct Line,118 118 and Procter & Gamble.
Awards 2005: Silver at Campaign Poster and Creative Circle bronze for Shameless, two Campaign Press for Friends, D&AD gold and silver for Channel 4 idents.
RED BEE MEDIA
At first glance Red Bee Media (formerly BBC Broadcast) seems to closely resemble a traditional advertising agency - all the way up to a major brand campaign, it operates within similar timeframes and budgets. But suggest this to them and you're likely to be met with a spiky response.
Charlie Mawer, the executive creative director, explains: "We would never call ourselves an ad agency. We are primarily a broadcast branding and promotion company and it's very rare that we operate in an area that is competitive with ad agencies. More commonly, we have skills that are complementary to those of ad agencies. For example, we worked with Wieden & Kennedy on an interactive TV project for Honda and with Karmarama on a branded content series for Ikea."
So how does Red Bee differentiate itself from a traditional agency? First, its in-house team comes from a wide range of backgrounds - they include programme producers, 3D animators, musicians and theatre directors - each of whom brings a different approach to creativity.
"We encourage our creatives to have a broader skill-set," Mawer says.
"Most of the team who have joined from advertising backgrounds love the fact that they can be really hands-on, getting the chance to write, produce, direct, and increasingly edit their own work. Another difference is the volume of output. We make more than 5,000 pieces of TV content a year, so TV really is in our blood."
Mawer is bullish about the future, given a clutch of recent project wins.
His team now works on some of the biggest media brands in the world, he says, including the rebranding of ITV and the Discovery Channel, which launched in the US and rolled out globally.
Founded: April 2002.
Key executives: Pam Masters, chief executive; Charlie Mawer (pictured), executive creative director.
Employees: 250 globally, including 90 creatives and 15 in planning and account management.
Major clients: Honda, BBC, Ikea, McDonald's.
Awards 2005: Creative Circle for Sci-Fi Channel, BTAA for UKTV Style, Bafta Craft for BBC Olympics title sequence.
Clients want ideas that work across various media so Emap's in-house advertising team is leveraging its magazine and radio brands to offer cross-media creative solutions.
Projects include the award-winning Vauxhall and FHM tie-up, for which Emap created a Driver of the Year competition to promote Vauxhall's range of high-speed cars. Advertorials in FHM called for entries and covered the event, while a channel on FHM.com gave more details.
Marcus Rich, Emap Advertising's group managing director, believes that for this sort of campaign, in-house is the only plausible option. "All the people involved are immersed in the Emap brands and have commercial skills and understanding of the client," he says.
The creatives are briefed to come up with an idea and a media schedule, and this is taken to the chosen brand's editorial teams. Magazine editors and programme directors enhance the thinking and ensure the idea doesn't jar for the audience.
"Working so closely with the brands means we can understand the readers and so give them a message they will want to listen to," Rich says.
The agency's staff are drawn from commercial and planning backgrounds as well as from art and design colleges.
Emap Advertising does not create any of Emap's main brand ads because, Rich says, it is there to understand existing customers, not attract new ones.
Founded: April 2000.
Key executive: Marcus Rich (pictured), group managing director, Emap Elan, Emap Performance and Emap Advertising.
Employees: 255, including 130 in magazines, 20 in creative solutions, 60 in broadcast, 15 in cross-media, ten in TV, ten in marketing and five in finance.
Major clients: COI, Unilever, L'Oreal, Vodafone, BSkyB.
Awards 2005: Campaign Media Radio Sales Team of the Year and Print Sales Team of the Year - Creative Solutions; PPA Sales Pitch of the Year for Smarties.
At the end of 2005, The Guardian ditched its direct marketing agency, Claydon Heeley Jones Mason, as part of a move to bring DM, sales promotion and ambient work in-house.
The newspaper created Guardian Creative, an extension of its commercial publishing offering, which launched The Guide in 1993. Guardian Creative also took on the development department's responsibilities for editing, designing and publishing commercially driven magazines and supplements for The Guardian and The Observer.
To some, The Guardian's decision seemed odd, as Claydon Heeley regularly produced award-winning work for the newspaper over the three years that it held the account.
Wresting back creative control could be a daunting prospect. But Marc Sands (pictured), Guardian Newspapers' marketing director, explains: "We don't see Guardian Creative as an alternative to an ad agency, but it offers distinct advantages. First, a greater understanding of the brand; second, it's cheaper." The other factor, he says, is the ability to work quickly. "When it comes to tactical work, the client company might be better at a fast turnaround because we bypass so many of the ad agency processes."
The Guardian's in-house team are an eclectic bunch, from a range of backgrounds and not necessarily from ad agencies. "They are copywriters, designers and some are from DM agencies," Sands says. "Consequently, the extent and range of different mediums our teams can cover is huge - it can span advertising, sampling and competitions."
However, Sands admits using an in-house creative department isn't for everyone. After all, Mother and DDB are firmly retained on his roster.
He says: "There's no outsider's point of view, no-one questioning your decisions. Sometimes you need a little outside help to develop a more enduring brand.
Founded: Originally started as a product development unit in 1992, renamed Guardian Creative in 2005.
Key executives: Giles Bernard, creative director; Sean Finch, head of Guardian Creative.
Employees: 25 split across creative, production, design and editorial.
Major clients: All Guardian and Observer products and supplements.
Awards 2005: NMA ANNA for Guardian Unlimited Fantasy Chairman ads, Magazine of the Year at the Press Gazette Magazine Design Awards for Drugs Uncovered.
The term cross-media deal didn't even exist five years ago. Today, it is a well-known concept that refers to a single creative idea executed across more than one platform.
It's a challenging approach, and RSVP recognised the tough market conditions when it launched in March 2004 against Emap's multimedia sales operation - a more established and more experienced direct competitor. The company, which employs staff from GCap, Viacom Brand Solutions and IPC, had a job to convince potential clients it was any better than or different from its rival.
Over the past year, RSVP has produced some work to be proud of. Intel worked with the division to launch a campaign called "best seats in the house" using television, radio and magazines. This was followed by the "you are what you eat" campaign for McDonald's.
But the company is not afraid to admit that in the eyes of a client, picking an in-house creative team over an ad agency comes down to one thing only, and that's money.
Daniel Salem (pictured), the head of marketing and advertising partnerships at RSVP, says: "From a client's point of view, using in-house creative is definitely a matter of cost and I think agencies need to be accountable for this. By having creative and media within the same budget, you can get on television for as little as £20,000. For brands that haven't advertised on TV before, we give them that option."
On the other hand, Salem says RSVP can offer some other advantages - such as greater flexibility than a traditional advertising agency.
"We aim to develop the best creative and ensure it is what the audience wants to watch," he says. "We then make it relevant to the media environment. For instance, we will produce one television spot for Channel 4 and a different one for Sky Sports."
Founded: March 2004.
Key executives: Justin Stephenson, Drachan Forster, Elizabeth Anyaebuna, Alex Kisby, all partnership directors.
Employees: 24 in total, split between GCap, Viacom Brand Solutions and IPC.
Major clients: McDonald's, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Motorola, Clearasil, T-Mobile, Smirnoff Ice, Intel, Volvic.
Awards 2005: Campaign Media Cross-Media Sales Team of the Year.