In-House Agency Council debuts

New council, founded by former CUB in-house agency leader, Chris Maxwell, is supported by a raft of Australian brands and their leaders including Sportsbet, Carsales, Australia Post, Optus and more

Board members of the new IHAC
Board members of the new IHAC

A new In-House Agency Council (IHAC) has been launched by a handful of Australia’s biggest brands aimed at helping marketers do a better job of building capability and sharing best practices across their in-house teams.

Steering the group is founder and chairman, lution’s CEO, Chris Maxwell, who was formerly with Carlton United Breweries (CUB). He left and launched Lution as an agency supporting in-house models earlier this year.

Founding board members of the new council include Sports GM marketing, Tim Hernadi; MYOB head of design, agency and brand, Belinda Watson; Optus consumer marketing director, Angela Greenwood; Carsales chief marketing officer, Kellie Cordner; Newscorp managing director of commercial content; Mike Connaghan; and brand and marketing adviser, Michael Sinclair.

Other founding members of IHAC are CUB, Australia Post, Kantar, The Star Entertainment Group, Hawthorn Football Club and Eucalyptus.

The council’s order of business includes an annual award series, a secondment program allowing members to arrange for their teams to gain experience within another business, masterclasses and networking events. The aim is to help organisations with in-house agencies to help benchmark and share best practices and ideas, while also attracting strong talent to these increasingly popular in-house teams.

Within its structure there are four sub-committees covering key areas of in-house agency capability: Strategy and creative; media, tech and data; production; and accounts and operations.

Commenting on the reasons for why the industry needed such a council, Maxwell said many in-house agency leaders had common objectives and challenges but could rarely connect to discuss these issues. He also cited his own experience building an in-house agency model as an impetus for IHAC’s debut.

“When I spoke with my peers in the industry it became apparent that there were shared challenges, shared opportunities and common themes,” he said. “However, there was no forum for in-house agency leaders and teams to collaborate, share or learn from each other. This seemed like a missed opportunity, given businesses like Optus, CUB and Sportsbet exist in different categories but their in-house agencies are often operationally similar.”

To further its footprint, IHAC has partnered up with the US-based In-House Agency Forum (IHAF), founded in 2005 and boasting of more than 350 members.

Hernadi is another advocate for the in-house agency model and said he’s putting time and energy into enhancing the reputation of the approach. “I have witnessed how powerful and dynamic it can be,” he said.

“With IHAC, our aim is to develop capability and advocate for the model whilst building a community network that supports its members.

“We want to put in-housing at the forefront and to erase some of the old-world stigma surrounding it by changing perceptions and demonstrating how in-house agencies enhance effectiveness, progress efficiency, promote ownership and positively impact culture.

Watson added IHAC was about community. “We want all members to have access to the many benefits of a community that is generous in sharing its resources and knowledge,” she said.

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