2017 Winners

2017 In-House Agency of the Year


AT&T’s in-house agency is a 150-person team with resources embedded with its clients. They support 38 diverse lines of business and produce over 7,000 unique pieces annually—executing creative born from strategic insight, for results that are sometimes provocative and always on brand.

Last year, the team embarked on a challenge: reposition the nation’s most recognizable telco into an entertainment brand, all within six weeks.

It would be a difficult task for any agency, internal or external, to reinvent a Fortune 10 company that also happens to be the one of the largest advertisers in the US. Not to mention, positioning the corporation to compete in the ever-changing tech/media/telecom space. Competition is formidable, with legacy companies like Comcast and Verizon becoming increasingly more aggressive. And newcomers like Amazon, Netflix and Hulu, along with Google and Facebook, making strides as well.

The in-house agency needed to define AT&T’s place as a provider of connectivity, devices and content. They also needed to transform the way the entertainment-seeking public perceives a company whose proper name is American Telephone & Telegraph—shifting from their grandparents’ phone company to a leader in mobile technology.

Beyond positioning, the team had to consider the long-term implications of rolling out such a sea change. With over 100 external agencies in the mix, it was essential to ensure an integrated experience.

They developed a brand platform and supporting toolbox that drove consistency across all media. They analyzed the way they communicated with customers and built a tone-of-voice based on peer conversation versus scripted dialog. And they reimagined the AT&T logo with a nod to entertainment and sports, and a touch of swagger.

The result? Immediate adoption across all lines of business, including national media, social media, revenue, upgrade and local advertising. The in-house agency enabled a 260,000-employee company to pivot on a dime, paving the way for AT&T to secure its position as the biggest media company in the world.


Sallie Mae

The 17-person in-house agency at Sallie Mae prides itself on three things: thinking strategically, performing passionately and challenging the status quo. They understand where the company’s been and where it’s going. And they get the brand—because they helped create it and they live it every day.

To combat Sallie Mae’s inaccurate reputation as a federal education lender, the in-house agency created a national multi-media campaign themed, “Let’s Help Make College Happen.” By simplifying their content and bringing a fresh perspective to complex financial topics (including a quippy piece for students called How Financial Aid Award Letters Are Like Donuts), the team cut through the clutter to reach new audiences and capture the attention of consumers and media alike.

With billions of impressions, the results were not only proven through consumer response to products, but response to the brand as well—an independent brand health survey reported an uptick in public perception of Sallie Mae. The improvement was evident internally too, with a significant lift in company pride among employees.

By combining its diverse creative expertise with unmatched institutional knowledge, the in-house agency at Sallie Mae succeeded in helping to elevate the company’s reputation and humanize its brand.

State Farm Insurance

What do you call a year when your brand undergoes a foundational reframing, your company picks a new lead agency and your team’s reporting completely shifts? If you’re the in-house agency at State Farm, you call it your best year ever.

By the start of 2016, State Farm knew it needed to reposition itself as more than just an insurance company. The internal Creative Services team was invited to participate as one of four agencies pitching strategic solutions. In the end, two agencies were left standing: DDB Chicago and Creative Services.

DDB was named lead agency with Creative Services as their right-hand. Suddenly, the internal team was responsible for more customer-facing work than ever. Print, radio, television, online video and social content, website development, out-of-home, sponsorships, collateral—Creative Services was doing it all.

With the onslaught of new, high-impact assignments, Creative Services also had to hone its skills forecasting, prioritizing, automating and tracking. At the same time, their department reporting shifted to the CMO, who challenged them with a cost-recovery goal in the millions.

Creative Services succeeded at every turn. By year end, not only did they deliver $27 million in cost avoidance, they dispelled any myths about their strategic prowess and creative firepower.