What Drives Similarities in Creative Groups?

Cella_slant_headerWhat Drives Similarities in Creative Groups?
By Jackie Schaffer


Creative leaders often ask Cella “how are others in my industry doing this?” And while there are certainly opportunities to learn from other creative teams within your industry, it’s not always the best common denominator to use as a source of comparison. For example, we at Cella are familiar with many of the in-house creative teams at big pharma companies. Team sizes vary from less than 10, ~20, upwards of 100 and to more than 200 team members. For the smallest team to take a lead from the largest would not be appropriate because the two teams are positioned very differently. So instead of industry—or perhaps in addition to industry—here are three common denominators to consider when comparing your team to another in-house creative team:

  1. Strategic Purpose
    Some companies are looking to avoid or reduce external agency costs, and therefore have positioned their in-house creative teams to compete with external agencies—sometimes in specific functional areas, other times more holistically. Regardless, these teams are generally larger in size so they can support a significant portion of the scope of work a company creates. Other creative teams are positioned to support internal requests only—their work is rarely seen by end customers; instead the audience for their work is their colleagues. And, of course, there are many teams that fall in between those two extremes.
  2. Team Size
    It’s very difficult for small teams to compare their standard operating procedures, challenges, and goals against those of large teams—and vice versa. Regardless of size, teams have challenges—but they can have very different challenges and very different ways of addressing those challenges. For example, a team of 50+ can bury a problem team member. But on a team of 10, that team member is front and center and a major cause for concern for the team.
  3. Funding Model
    Teams are typically funded in one of three high-level ways (with lots of complexities in between): Chargeback, Cost Center/Fully-Funded, and Allocation (pre-pay by customers), with the first two being the most common. How creative teams prioritize, allocate their time, motivate customer behaviors, staff and more are tied closely to their funding models.

So next time when you are considering benchmarking your team against another—seek to find teams that match these three denominators. If you find that within your industry—bonus—, but not likely. What’s most interesting when speaking to teams within your industry is why they are set up they way they are and how they got there…but that may not be a conversation they are willing to have with a potential competitor.


InHOWse Managers Conference
Did you know there’s a 3-day conference devoted solely to helping in-house design managers succeed and thrive and the author of this column is one of the conference speakers? Come hear more insights from Jackie Schaffer at the InHOWse Managers Conference. Attending will help you take your career to the next level and get you face to face with other creatives just like you. Don’t miss this unique experience!


Jackie Schaffer, vice president and general manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative.