"There's an incredible appetite for experimentation and bravery
[here]," says Jackie Jantos, VP of brand creative at Spotify, who
went from Ogilvy to Coke to her current gig. "[Also], sitting at
the intersection of technology and music really puts you in a place
where you're focusing and thinking about culture."
Know thyself and thy new home
"The reason I passed on other [in-house] offers was because I
just didn't want to be married to that brand 24/7," says Airbnb's
Gadd. "With Airbnb, I was a big fan. ... Also, I found my
personal values are aligned with their core values—it felt
like a highly creative, community-driven company."
You may not be coddled
In fact, you might feel alone. Alec Brownstein, who had worked
at a number of agencies before landing in-house at Dollar Shave
Club, where he's executive creative director, says when he first
arrived, it was culture shock: "Agencies are structured to coddle
creatives—the precious creative, creative is king. That's the
right way to be when you're in a creative ad agency, but when
you're one of few creative guys at a brand, people don't share that
sentiment." At agencies, for example, you might have an account
exec to help sell creative ideas with decent budgets; if you're
client-side, you may have to do that selling yourself.
There's work. Lots of work
Anastacia Maggioncalda became the head of production at
LinkedIn's creative studio last fall, after serving in top
production roles at Pereira & O'Dell and Eleven, and at production companies.
"Agency-side, you spend a lot of time in concepting," shesays.
"In-house, you're creating so much content,
and outputting on a daily basis."
Says DSC's Brownstein, "One of our sales pitches is, 'You'll get
to make more work,' which is oddly counterintuitive. [But]
creatives get frustrated when they don't get to make stuff. ... You
make a lot more stuff [client-side] by virtue of the changing
digital landscape and you have to feed the social media beast. You
make stuff that doesn't live forever, so you're not as precious
You will move fast
LinkedIn's Maggioncalda says one recent project involved
creating a book for an event. "It was a last-minute ask, so we
pulled together a design team, created a 40-page book in about five
days. If we were to put out a scope of work for out-of-house for
vendor partners and printers, that would have been a four-month
project. It helped that our internal business partners sit five
feet away. Having the ability to get everyone around the table
quickly and do that on a daily, hourly basis is a huge
You could end up wearing a lot of hats
" 'Diverse' is the perfect description of a day at Airbnb," says
Gadd. "Not only are the content and assignments very diverse, my
team is too." Her producers' backgrounds span no less than film,
television, journalism, documentaries, design and events. "On
certain projects, we act as the agency and hire outside production
people; on other projects, we have resources to do all the way
through delivery; and sometimes, I'm the client when I'm working
with our agency Wieden & Kennedy."
Prepare to go deep
"When you move in-house, something that seems like a small
project is connected to so many other aspects of the business in so
many interesting ways," says LinkedIn Executive Creative Director
Kevin Frank, who worked at agencies including Venables Bell and
FCB. (Prior to LinkedIn, Frank was at Apple.)
Take a web banner, he says: "You're also thinking what would
communications and PR say, what would legal say. You're at an
agency, it's your job to express the brand your client has created.
But when you work in-house, not only do you get to do that, you get
to shape the brand."
Which means, in turn, that creative can influence work further
upstream. "I can affect everything from outbound messaging to
experience, to the product in hand," says Brownstein. "I'm involved
in everything from what does the product smell like to what is the
name to what to put on the label."
At Airbnb, Gadd's team touches product as well. The company
recently announced Airbnb Plus and Beyond, its luxury offerings, and Gadd says
that "was the biggest product launch in Airbnb history, and our
team was intimately involved in not only creating all the
content—for marketing and PR initiatives—but also very
involved in developing those products."
The rewards can be different
"There's a paradigm shift," says Brownstein. "When you're in an
ad agency, you're interested in building a portfolio and maybe
making the kookiest, strangest ads so you can win awards, command
more money, then rinse and repeat." But being inside a company, a
startup in particular, he says, opens your eyes to different kinds
of rewards and successes.
"When I started at DSC, I was doing a lot of unsexy
things—writing Google ad copy, email copy.
At an agency, you think, go find some junior to do that. ... But
when you recognize the direct connection to the bottom line, you're
willing to do everything." One telling example was a seemingly
throwaway idea—to add an extra button on the company's
website that said, "Buy another one." That turned out, he says, to
be a winner of an idea.
"It was really successful and things like that get you excited
about all the different ways you can impact a business outside of
advertising," says Brownstein. "I love creative, funny, kooky
stuff, but it's got to work."
You may not always 'sign' what you do
While agencies usually are happy to give credit to the various
creatives, producers and partners on their work, some companies,
like Apple notoriously, don't credit publically the individuals
involved in campaign creation. So depending on where you are, get
comfortable with not seeing your name in lights.
Beware: In-house jobs are getting
"When I first went client-side, the reaction from everyone was,
'Way to kill your career!' " Brownstein says. "Now the reaction is,
'How can I go in-house?' "
Maggioncalda agrees, saying, "One of the most exciting things is
in talent acquisition—the number of people excited to come
here and wanting to collaborate with me and my team on a daily
basis." She says she sees anywhere from five to 15 people reach out
daily about informational meet-ups. She recently had an open
position for a senior integrated producer and says that the company
got over 160 applications.
Brownstein says when he's looking to bring people in, it's not
just about a standout portfolio.
"Equally important is the right mindset," he says. "If you're of
the mindset, 'I want to create scam posters and drink champagne,'
this is not the fit. There's a place in the industry for ad
purists, but when you come in-house, you have to be just as excited
about a cool commercial as you are about button
placement—'OMG, it doubled revenue!' If you can open your
eyes to the ultimate goal, you'll do well, but if you can't, you'll