Why Going Internal at Reckitt Benckiser Didn’t Stall My Creative Career


As agencies look for ways to dissuade brands from insourcing their marketing efforts, Reckitt’s Ainhoa ​​Robles says creative careers could actually benefit from an in-house move.

In a design studio, you’re surrounded by like-minded people who are curious, daydreamers who constantly ask, “what if?” Rebels who challenge the status quo and are eager to rock the boat and innovate, unrelated to the daily challenges faced by their customers. It’s fast, fun and rewarding – a difficult culture to recreate internally in a large multinational.

But when you lift the veil on client-side work, you realize that “going to the dark side” has distinct benefits — and creativity is one of the big winners.

Privileged point of view

When it comes to thinking beyond just creative output and really getting into the shoes of a brand, an in-house stint can give your career the unique perspective you need. It allows you to understand the commercial and historical factors that influence and challenge the brand, to see it work in all its details. You become its voice, its guardian – its promoter of excellence, as we like to say at Reckitt. You know where the brand has been and how it’s evolved – intimate knowledge that you’d be hard pressed to emulate on the agency side.

This distinction dispels the biggest myth of stagnant creativity. Working for one brand owner means your work is less varied on one level. But that doesn’t mean he’s getting less creative, just more focused. Working internally broadens your perspective. You understand the challenges and frustrations of the daily operation of a brand and the markets it faces. It expands your way of thinking and allows for more agility and flexibility. On the agency side, a lot of time and effort goes into onboarding a brand new client. Internally, your onboarding means you can go from idea to prototype and launch in weeks. It allows you to hone an agile mindset, test, iterate, and learn – to evolve your creativity in different ways.

Another revelation is the scope of the collaboration. Again, a prominent idea conjures up images of the lonely designer surrounded by a sea of ​​sales-obsessed marketers and salespeople. But the mandate of many large internal brand experience teams is to create amazing briefs and choose the best teams to deliver them – to bring together the best agencies and people to get things done. You have access to an infinitely diverse talent pool.

And while I like the strategic, brand-driven approach of big studios, it’s also great to see how smaller independent studios operate. They have a startup mentality, a design-driven approach that inspires and is very refreshing. When you’ve worked at an agency for more than 10 years, you’re invariably drawn to that group’s work philosophy. But working on the client side, being exposed to a variety of different collaborators, means you have to constantly flex and adapt your view of things.

A winning formula

For brands in today’s economy, budgets are tight and the communication landscape is more fragmented, so to keep up with the pace consumers expect, they need creativity around the clock. Which leads to another perception that needs to be addressed – that building a design team is just a way to save money for brand owners and that the in-house creative team can handle it all. . It is not possible.

Likewise, you cannot rely solely on external talent to meet such complex challenges. The ability of internal teams and agencies to act as one is therefore essential. It is therefore our duty to continuously educate the company on the role of brand experience and design thinking, as well as the broad-spectrum specialties that exist in design – and that can be difficult. . But it’s also very rewarding because you’re influencing a larger marketing team that better understands the creative process.

Being under the same roof as the marketing manager, working with different stakeholders and people involved at different stages, allows you to get to know and understand each other better. This fosters a sense of camaraderie rather than “client versus designer,” where communication becomes more open and allows for a smoother, richer outcome. You have informal daily interactions and fewer compromises. Often you can modify or create the briefs yourself, as you are a trusted member of the team and have an intimate understanding of the brand, its footprint and its vision, allowing you to help shape the perfect brief that we all desire. for.

Your chances of making an impact are probably greater than when you’re on the agency side, which is my biggest personal motivation for moving to the client side. So while the in-house versus agency argument has always been more nuanced than the myths suggest, moving in-house will undoubtedly broaden your creative horizons.

Ainhoa ​​Robles is Head of Global Brand Experience and Service Design at Reckitt.


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