Letting Go of the Leash

“Either you believe you are creative, or you don’t. And either way, you’re right.”

That insight from in-house agency leader Don Lane captures the spirit of the 2020 IHAF Conference & Awards: CREATIVITY UNLEASHED. In other words, anyone, regardless of title or job function, can think creatively and contribute ideas, resulting in the best solutions.

Our biggest event of the year was a four-day romp through riveting sessions, live networking and an electric awards show—all rife with the skills and strategies that breed collective creativity across in-house agencies. Beyond a bold conference theme, the most obvious feature of our 2020 affair is that it was virtual for the first time ever. So, what did our 400-plus guests think?

“Thank you IHAF for a great Conference. I’ve so enjoyed it and am greatly inspired!”

“So fun—as live as we can be since we’re all remote. Definitely miss seeing people in person this year. Nothing like a live IHAF event—though, this certainly came close.”

“Big shout out to the entire IHAF team. Simply an amazing Conference and Awards Show.”

While IHAF Director Emily Foster and the rest of our team appreciate the nod, it’s our members and other in-house agency stars who lit up the livestream all week. Here are some highlights:

Keynote Presentations and General Sessions. What does it take to tap into our collective creative potential? How do teams go beyond what’s expected? And, how can those of us in functions often deemed “less-creative”—like data analytics, operations, procurement and others—spark innovation? Conference-goers explored these questions with in-house agency leaders from brands like AT&T, Nestlé Purina, Quicken Loans, Taco Bell and more.

For example (and in case you missed the Conference), here’s Victoria Morrissey from Caterpillar with a refreshing take on B2B storytelling.

Actual Networking. In shifting the IHAF Conference & Awards from in-person to virtual, you might wonder how people were able to network with one another. Team IHAF unleashed some creativity of our own, coming up with new ways for like-minded pros to connect from a distance. Attendees got to try out Speed Networking—think speed dating, only better—and Birds of a Feather, which sparked over a dozen small-group discussions on various topics of interest.

In addition to our planned agenda, the chat boxes running alongside each presentation were a welcome chance to connect and weigh in on session soundbites in real time—just like the one-off comments you’d hear whispered across the table at an in-person conference. Here are a few gems from assorted chats (with zero context, of course):

“Wait a sec... is that the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol from Indiana Jones?”

“Heart rate so high I won’t need to hit the gym tonight. That’s a plus.”

“Can I get the voiceover artist to read my email inbox?”

“I’m 10 feet from my fridge… it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?”

“That was a Baja Blast!”

Creativity On-Demand. Between presentations and Taco Bell drink jokes, conferencegoers also had the opportunity to snack on tutorials to spark their own personal creativity with how-to videos ranging from floral design and latte foam art. Here’s a quick lesson on better self-recordings, courtesy of longtime IHAF member and conference sponsor, ELEMENT:

IHAF Awards. The final day of the IHAF Conference & Awards paid tribute to in-house creative excellence and team performance. Attendees started the day with a self-guided tour through our virtual creative gallery, filled with 800+ entries to the In-House Creativity Awards.

After the gallery tour, we gathered in a virtual theater for the IHAF Awards show—and cheered along while an amped-up announcer revealed this year’s Honorable Mention, Silver and Gold winners, with one ingenious packaging entry from AB InBev surpassing all others to win the coveted Best of Show award.

The top-prize winning, socially conscious Budweiser Kiss Bottles from AB InBev’s in-house agency, draftLine, debuted in China for Valentine’s Day 2019. The unique design on each bottle features an individual poised for a kiss, which can be paired with different bottles to reveal lovers of all types in support of a message that all love is love:

AB InBev's Budweiser Kiss Bottles
IHAF 2020 In-House Creativity Awards Best of Show

Our annual event closed with a bang, announcing the 2020 In-House Agency of the Year. With dozens of entries sharing tales of team performance, business impact and client partnerships, the competition was stiff for this year’s top shop.

After a detailed review of all of the entries, Capital One, Cisco Systems and Whirlpool Corporation emerged as finalists—with Cisco’s The Hatch ultimately named In-House Agency of the Year. The 77-person team not only delivered more than 1,300 projects of all scopes and sizes in 2019, but conceived and executed an integrated brand campaign that drew over 10.3M unique visitors to Cisco.com. And, their clients corroborated their contribution, with one saying, “I can always count on The Hatch to exceed my expectations on the quality of work and bring forward innovative thinking. I trust them to push the boundaries of creativity—all in the spirit of telling the best story possible.”

collage of graphics of individuals from The Hatch of Cisco Systems, IHAF's 2020 In-House Agency of the Year

Cisco Systems' The Hatch
IHAF 2020 In-House Agency of the Year

And, that’s what happened at the 2020 IHAF Conference & Awards: CREATIVITY UNLEASHED. Though the event may be over, session recordings are available to IHAF members on our site. You’ll also find select clips on Instagram and our public LinkedIn page. The creative potential of in-house agencies has never been clearer. We can’t wait to see what you do in the year to come.

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