What is your team’s purpose? Why do you exist? How do you meet the needs of your company?

These are important questions to answer when forming, developing, and growing your team and services. There are probably as many types of creative teams as there are companies who need and support them. Yet I think we would all agree that those “types” primarily fall into only a handful of categories. Is your organization an In-House Agency? A Creative Services Group? A Production Team? Or perhaps a Creative Center of Excellence? All have distinct operational models, org structures and mandates.

We should be careful not to do ourselves, our clients and our industry a disservice by defining and calling our organizations by what may be perceived as the latest trendy title rather than acknowledging what they actually are, causing confusion for our customers as well as our staff.

The key is to identify the purpose of your team as it aligns to your company’s goals, mission and vision. How do you support your company? What are your clients’ and key stakeholders’ expectations of your group? What value do you bring to your company? There is no one right way to establish or redefine an in-house creative team, but it is critical that there be a synergy between your team’s goals and the goals of your company because misalignment results in both disillusioned staff as well as disenchanted internal customers.

Looking to define your in-house creative team?

To help you define your team, here is a listing of four different types of internal creative groups to benchmark your organization against and the likely attributes they exhibit:

Production Services
Production Services teams provide a consistent way to address pure lower-end tier 2 and tier 3 production work, updates, changes and revisions to existing work - all of those “keep-the-lights-on” projects. This group is comprised of a team of technical experts who prepare files in a variety of channels. All work is brand complaint, usually templated and often enabled through a Kanban process. Attributes and mandates of this type of team include:

  • Production excellence
  • Flawless technical execution
  • Brand compliant
  • Tactical
  • Transaction-Oriented
  • Channel-specific solutions – print and digital (usually does not include video)

Creative Services
Creative Services is a multi-channel team that provides creative excellence through higher-level tier 2 message-driven deliverables from concept through completion of projects. They may engage in some ground up creative, but most often are repurposing and enhancing existing assets. They are a team of brand advocates who are service oriented and responsive to client requests. They most likely have project managers to help guide the work through the creative process. Characteristics typically associated with this organizational model are:

  • Creative excellence
  • Strategic creative execution
  • Brand compliant and advocate
  • Responsive
  • Tactical
  • Service-Oriented
  • Message-Driven
  • Multi-Channel solutions
  • High volume

In-House Agency
An In-House Agency provides strategic direction, planning, and creative for omni-channel Tier 1 and tier 2 campaign solutions. They are proactive, connected to both the creative industry as well as their company’s business and they provide high value solutions to drive that business. Account Managers are often included in these teams along with a Creative Director, Art Directors and Copywriters. These groups embody:

  • Strategic excellence
  • Strategic creative direction and planning
  • Campaign development
  • Brand advocate and enrichment
  • Story-Driven
  • Proactive approach
  • Industry connected
  • Relationship oriented
  • Idea-Driven
  • Omni-Channel Solutions
  • High value

Creative Center of Excellence
A Creative Center of Excellence provides creative leadership and influence across the company in addition to providing the expertise and services of an In-house agency. They may lead brand strategy and development and manage both the in-house agency as well as external agency suppliers with the mission of maximizing the value that creativity brings to the company. They include creative and marketing strategists who are involved in the upstream development of corporate marketing and communications plans. Attributes associated with this type of organization are:

  • C-suite alignment
  • Empowered to influence the organization
  • Provides strategic creative leadership across the company with leading-edge knowledge and competency
  • Strongly influences creative strategy and excellence across the company
  • Brand strategy, development and governance
  • Manages the company’s creative suppliers establishing effective coordination and collaboration between various internal and external agency resources
  • Flawless campaign and project delivery through in-house agency and external agencies

Regardless of how each of these teams is positioned within their companies, every one of these models focuses on excellence in their work quality, strives to adapt to changing business needs, and are both time and cost conscious.  Each category of creative teams can be relevant and bring great value to their companies. One is better than another only in terms of which model is best suited to meet the needs and goals of the organization. By acknowledging and working with those goals and needs and clearly defining and labeling your team, you can set your group up for success and continuous strategic evolution.