Why Facebook Is Taking More of Its Advertising Work In-House

CMO promises 'a lot more science in marketing'

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During an Advertising Week panel Thursday with a quintet of CMOs from tech and media brands, Facebook's marketing chief Gary Briggs made a comment that likely ruffled the feathers of more than a few agency execs in the room—he's giving his in-house creative shop more work.

"We've brought a lot of talent in-house—for speed," Briggs said.

He was quick to point out that Facebook still works with Wieden + Kennedy, the agency behind its recent campaigns, but the tech company's rapid-fire launches of new features and apps means that its internal creative shop is getting much more of its work these days.

"Predominately, the work we're doing now is through this internal group called The Factory," Briggs said. "We're constantly introducing new apps and new features, and a large amount of time that I spend is in product marketing. So, you want your agency to be tight with the product managers, and you really only get that when they're in the hallway."

Briggs' in-house creative push is largely based on the changing role of CMO, which increasingly requires more technology know-how than creative oversight.

"Great creative comes from a really tight, specific brief," Briggs said. "But all that I think is going towards a longer-term trend where there's going to be a lot more science in marketing."

He added, "I think it's going to go much, much further than people think right now; I think we're underestimating how much that's going to matter."

Granted, Briggs' perspective is from a company that's capitalized on technology, specifically mobile, to build a $4.04 billion ad business in three years, but the need for more in-house expertise was echoed by the other CMOs on the panel.

"We have to be so real time that a larger agency just couldn't do it for us, so we decided to actually take all that money that we were using with an outside agency and build it internally," said Deirdre Bigley, Bloomberg's CMO.

Her 65-member creative team is led by JWT alum Damian Totman and just launched its first work for another company two weeks ago with a Times Square billboard for Morgan Stanley.

"That was the first time that we went outside and pitched an account," Bigley said. "I don't know where that's going to take us, but it was just an interesting next step for our internal agency."

Popsugar's evp of marketing, Anna Fieler, added that publishers' data and editorial chops are a big part of the appeal of in-house studios.

For example, her company's creative team, The Bakery, worked with a fitness apparel brand to create a video with copy that read, "How to get rid of cottage cheese thighs." Fieler said the headline may have seemed a bit off-putting for a big brand, but the piece was based on social data showing it was a topic the brand's followers were talking about.

"Through a partner, you're able to borrow an authentic voice to amplify your story in a way that you couldn't otherwise," Fieler said.

Even as publishers and tech companies encroach on agency turf, AOL's CMO Allie Kline made the case that agencies should still be involved in the creative process.

"In a way, those things are most effective when we partner with the agency than with the brand directly on the B2B side," Kline said. "You're adding more creative fire."

@laurenjohnson lauren.johnson@adweek.com Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.