The Rise of In-house Creative Studios: How Freelancers Can Help Enterprise Brands Overcome Resource Challenges and Promote Sustainability

April 11, 2023
min read

The year 2023 has introduced a fresh economic landscape, characterised across tech as the "year of efficiency". The prolonged impact of a decade marked by record-low interest rates is putting most businesses under pressure to reduce costs and increase profits.

One area in particular that's facing the heat are the long-standing relationships between creative agencies and enterprises, which have historically been a very costly line-item on the balance sheet . An absence of innovation in these agency businesses, along with inflated margins to cover large overhead costs have seen these businesses fall out of favor with enterprise clients. The relationships are now being heavily scrutinized and challenged to deliver value while simultaneously reducing costs.

The pressure on agency relationships is mounting at a time when these businesses are already grappling with existential challenges caused by significant shifts in the industry and the evolving nature of how we work. According to Forbes, this industry is on the verge of a business crisis, with up to 40% annual staff turnover rates and deteriorating relationships with enterprise clients.

“at the current rate of turnover, an agency literally becomes a new agency in 3 years"

- Forbes

For many businesses, the time has come and gone for the agencies to prove their worth and many are taking matters into their own hands. This shift represents a fundamental change in how companies approach their marketing and branding efforts, with many opting to establish their own in-house creative studios. This trend is gaining traction globally, as multinational companies take steps to take back control of their brand and to ensure operational efficiency.

At PLAYE, we’ve observed this trend and in particular, its acceleration in a post-COVID world. Our teams are increasingly supporting in-house projects, and much less frequently are we being asked to support projects that also have an agency partner present.

“64% of global marketing decision-makers said they had increased their investment in in-house agencies over the past three years.”

- Forrester, The State of in-house agencies 2020

In addition to cost savings, in-house creative studios are offering brands greater autonomy over their creative output, expedited turnaround times, and improved transparency and accountability of creative teams. The approach enables companies greater control over the quality, direction, and execution of their marketing and branding initiatives, and results suggest they lead to more effective campaigns and a stronger brand identity.

In-house creative studios are proving to offer many benefits, but can also have some key limitations, particularly when it comes to scaling.

One major challenge that in-house creative studios face is limited access to specialised skills and resources that may not be readily available within their organisation. This becomes particularly problematic when creative needs are diverse and spread out across the globe, requiring specific expertise or cultural understanding. Traditionally, the solution has been to fly people to wherever they are needed. However, this approach not only conflicts with the efforts to reduce expenses but also goes against any effort the business is making to be more sustainable in its operations, given the high carbon footprint of air travel.

401 of the World’s Largest Organisations have signed The Climate Pledge to hit net zero emissions by 2040

One solution to these challenges is engaging local freelancers. By working with freelancers, an in-house creative studio can access specialized skills, reduce costs, and increase flexibility. By eliminating the need for long-distance travel, enterprise brands can significantly reduce their environmental impact. Additionally, engaging local freelancers can support the local economy, providing work and income for local talent, and helping to build stronger relationships with local communities.

Working with freelancers is not without its challenges. One major risk is the potential for non-compliance with labour laws and regulations, which can result in legal and financial liabilities for the company. Other risks include issues with quality control, confidentiality breaches, and a lack of accountability. Additionally, working with freelancers who are located in different parts of the world can present many logistical challenges.

“We’ve shot content all over Europe with PLAYE, without booking a single flight”

PLAYE Client: Catawiki

PLAYE is a company that provides a robust solution for in-house creative studios to engage, manage, and pay freelancers all over the world. Our platform gives creative teams the ability to scale creative resources up & down in line with their requirements. PLAYE is particularly focused on removing risk from working with freelancers by satisfying the requirements of enterprise procurement teams, to ensure projects are in-line with internal requirements, are compliant with respective tax laws and ensuring that projects are covered by appropriate agreements and insurance.

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