Thought Leadership

‘If your brand is boring, sack your CMO’

Top CMOs give their top tips for In-housing in 2023

Nicola Kemp

Editorial Director Creativebrief


The marketing industry has come a long way since marketing supremo Sir John Hegarty declared that in-house was for ‘boring’ creatives. 

From Apple’s recent creative triumph of an Accessibility campaign, to Lego building a creative culture in which leaders can both create the best work of their lives and actually have a life, the stereotypes surrounding in-house marketing have fallen away.

However, as the economic downturn continues to place marketing budgets under pressure the in-house model is in the spotlight once more as brands seek to create cost savings. 

However, building an in-house solution is not always easy or without its challenges. According to research from Collective Content Studio almost half of marketers find In-house an operational ‘nightmare’, while more than a third say it's too difficult to implement and that their teams lack creative inspiration. 

The research reveals that 80% of marketers say in-housing could be improved but 77% say they would consider using a variation of the approach - a specifically curated hybrid model, for instance. (The full research which was carried out earlier this year, is available here.)

As part of the research, Collective Content Studio asked some of the industry’s brightest global CMOs their top tips for in-housing in 2023. And here they are, all wrapped up nicely for you: 

Abba Newbery


Chief Marketing Officer


Make sure you work with the best agencies so your talent is creating the best work - not doing crap

Our recruitment mantra in marketing is you’ll be coming to Habito to do your very very best work. No one is really going to say no. That's not going to work for everyone but because we work with the best agencies, we have the best team.

Any marketing that is not interesting is lazy. It shouldn't be a thing where in-house teams have to do crap work. But if you are using the word “content” all the time in the marketing team, I can guarantee you are creating crap work. What is content?  It's not a thing - there are films, TV shows, songs, and music. These are things. As soon as you start talking about content, you have resigned yourself to creating a funnel of crap

Give your team flexibility

The team have full flexibility to adapt things how they feel fit. They are all channel experts so it's not down to me to tell them how it fits their channel, it's down to them to tell me. 

If you don't have an interesting brand you will just attract crap talent

There is nothing more boring than mortgages. We are not lucky that we have created an interesting brand, we created it on purpose.

And if your brand is boring, you should sack your CMO.

Pete Markey

PeteMarkey35 (1).jpg

Chief Marketing Officer


Create the right environment

Firstly getting the right talent in and making sure it is an attractive place to work by creating a great environment to work in. You could get the talent in, then squash it in 5 minutes by sticking them in a corporate environment and saying “you need to wear a suit to the office” and they say “hang on a minute. I wear jeans and trainers.” I’m being stereotypical but making the conditions work is really important as well.

Career progression - not feeling the graveyard shift

In-housing shouldn’t feel like the graveyard slot. It should feel like this is an exciting way of looking at things, and actually, it’s a way of having more ownership and channels, but I think it's about laying all of that down and having the right people.

There is that bit around if you’re mapping your career how do you not make it feel like this graveyard slot I’ve talked about, ‘I was with these 3 high-flying agencies, and now I’m in a brands in-house design team design team…oh great”. You need to make it feel like it’s a really big, great step forwards.

Tina Fegent


Marketing Procurement Consultant

Tina Fegent

If you’re not an attractive brand it can be harder to attract the right resource

But also it's not just creative people they do need project managers they do need digital expertise and I think all of it depends on who's leading it and what expertise and what the scope of the work is like as well as the relationship with the internal stakeholders.

I think CD can be wrong

A lot of the rub I see in in-house agencies is with their own stakeholders. I have seen some in-house offerings where half the internal stakeholders loved them and the others hated them and didn't want to use them, so it becomes about the relationship with the person who leads it and the respect they command and the process they have in place - I think it's a really hard job leading an in house creative agency.

Chris Shadrick

Chris s Collective agencyjpg.jpg

CEO, North America & Global Strategy Partner


Look at hybrid models tailored to your needs

Proximity breeds understanding and creative curiosity breeds innovative content. Think about having the teams housed in the creative agency, instead of in the client office. This keeps churn low, and motivation high and allows teams able to answer challenges quickly and effectively with the most modern thinking. While still being energised and inspired by the unique world of agency life.

Think about a salary+ model

With the teams working within the agency, but for the client, there is already delivery and recruitment benefits, but if you also work by salary+ model you can see savings of 50% plus against the usual rate card.

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