What We Learned from the Experts & Aces

So happy to have attended a really great spring event in NYC the week before last with the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF). What a crew and a day of sharing more than the usual tips and tricks by adding a layer of genuine truth and humanity to the conversation.

Many of the brands that presented had their fair share of challenges and pivots given the nature of the business over the past two years. Deloitte, Indeed, Norwegian Cruise Line and IHAF’s In-House Agency of the Year (and BeenThereDoneThat client), PwC. The knowledge dropped was highly rewarding!

So, what did we learn?

Change tests trust—so trust is on the line all the time. With a virtual team of 110 professionals, trust is a core focus for PwC’s in-house agency. Senior leader Jack Teuber advised: “Be smart enough to know what you don't know and lean into the power of questions. Literally ask your people: what would you do to make this better?” This helps build trust and it’s one-on-one.

Balance power with words. “The words you use are important. Do you call your marketing counterparts ‘clients’ or ‘partners’ or ‘stakeholders’?” As a former writer, Jack stressed the importance of words particularly in relation to the balance of power—something very real for in-house teams.

Small teams can do big things. This was demonstrated throughout Becky Winters’ session, focused on how the team at Norwegian Cruise Line evolved from creative services to a full-fledged agency in the throes of a pandemic, as the hospitality industry went dark. (Their Break Free spot is superb!)

Do less. “This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s about reflecting on what you want your team to focus on and doing the right work in the right way,” shared Greta Mantooth, creative director of Design at Indeed. Greta co-presented with Marketing Studio managing director, Tim Chow. 

External agencies are not the competition. Event goers were urged to view (and lean on) external agencies as an extension of their own teams. Whether it’s adding capacity or capabilities, internal and external agencies should be more complementary than they are competitive.

Give time for results to show how agility delivers better work. Deloitte’s Kim McNeil-Downs talked about the evolution of the firm’s Green Dot Agency, and their current focus on marketing excellence including embracing agile workflow practices.

Each of the speakers at the IHAF event opened themselves (and their teams) to an enthusiastic and curious audience—all focused on what it takes to make their in-house agencies soar. And while talent is universal, opportunity is not. All of them recognized that enabling and creating meaningful work not only lifts their brands but lifts their teams to greater heights. Thank you for lifting all of us along with you!

Tara Nolan is Chief Global Growth Officer at BeenThereDoneThat, an IHAF Supplier member. BeenThereDoneThat offers a new model built around a community of 350+ of the world’s best strategic, creative thinkers across 25 markets working with a variety of in-house clients including Beam Suntory, PepsiCo, PwC, and many others.

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