Rod Sobral on why in-housing doesn’t hamper creativity

“We’re witnessing, I think, one of the biggest upheavals our industry has seen since the internet was invented or since Bill Bernbach decided to bring together a writer and an art director,” said Oliver, Global CCO Rod Sobral. No, he’s not talking about pandemics or recessions or artificial intelligence. He’s talking about in-housing, which is enjoying renewed popularity based on the number of brands around the world launching their own creative agencies with funny names every year.

Sobral has spent much of his 25 years in the industry at agencies including R/GA and AKQA. In these roles, he made it his mission to get as close to the brand side as possible, as evidenced by his close relationship with Nike or his acclaimed work on Beats by Dre at R/GA. For a time, Sobral ran the Beats account from London, but eventually relocated to California to be closer to the brand (and its time zone). R/GA founder Bob Greenberg accommodated the move by renting a stylish office in Santa Monica, but what Greenberg didn’t realize was how little time Sobral would be spending in that office. “I literally took my team and moved into the Beats by Dre office without anyone knowing and it was necessary to really give the brand and culture a voice. So for me to come to Oliver and migrate completely [to] Fostering internal creativity was just a natural progression from something I always thought I was already doing.”

Founded in 2004 by Simon Martin, Oliver specializes in the design, development and operation of in-house agencies on behalf of brands. The model typically involves building a bespoke team within the brand that is “always built around the business needs of our clients, not the advertising needs,” says Sobral. “We’re there on a day-to-day basis and doing things as usual, which also allows us to work very well with the agencies,” he adds. Because “we are seen as part of the brand,” he explains.

Let’s put it this way: Four or five years ago, not many people called me back when I was talking about in-housing. Now we can’t serve all the demand

In addition, there is a secondary creative layer that can help outside of day-to-day needs when “they want to increase the firepower”. Finally, they have access to 24/7 production teams around the world, as well as other resources within Oliver’s parent company, Brandtech Group. Sobral says the in-house agencies are part of the brand — Oliver just creates and maintains them. “In short, they all work for Oliver, but they always represent that brand. You are a partner of this brand and are judged by the success you have brought to this brand, not necessarily by Oliver.”

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