Brands like Rakuten, Squarespace, Best Buy turn to in-house teams to create flexible, quick Super Bowl campaigns

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This story is part of Digiday’s annual coverage of the Super Bowl. More from the series →

As marketers continue to build out in-house agencies — creative, media or otherwise — offering the talent that joins said agencies the ability to crack major campaign moments like the Super Bowl is necessary, according to in-house agency execs.

Cash-back platform Rakuten will run its second Super Bowl spot by its 45-person in-house team this year. The platform has in-house brand strategists, creative strategists, art directors and designers as well as a production staff. The team crafted a 30-second ad that will run during the game featuring stars of Clueless reviving their roles in the film to tout the fashion offerings of Rakuten.

“We knew we needed a creative team who could do it all,” said Vicki McRae, svp of brand, creative and communications at Rakuten, adding that when she joined the platform three years ago the plan was to grow an in-house team to not only figure out the tone of voice, look and feel of the brand but make sure it was a team with “big ambitions.”

McRae added: “We needed people who had a vision to set foundational elements who could deliver things like the Super Bowl. With that in mind, to get the top talent you need to bring in-house to do all those things, you have to make sure they are [given the opportunity] to touch all those things.” 

Rakuten is not alone in using its in-house team to manage its Super Bowl advertising. Other brands like Squarespace and Best Buy, among others, are using in-house teams for various Super Bowl efforts. As previously reported by Digiday, as marketers continue to build out in-house capabilities, using those in-house teams to manage tentpole events like Super Bowl will continue. 

The “always-on nature of the work over the last decade” has made Squarespace’s 60-person in-house agency all the more important for the brand, according to Ben Hughes, vp of creative at Squarespace. The website maker will have a 30-second spot during the Big Game featuring Adam Driver that was created in-house and inspired by the brand’s lore, something the in-house team was “uniquely qualified” to do, noted Hughes.

Marketers pointed to speed and agility when asked why they are using in-house teams to manage Super Bowl campaigns. While Best Buy won’t have an ad running during the Big Game, the brand did tap its 100-person in-house agency to manage a campaign leading up to the Super Bowl. 

“We believe that no one can more authentically tap into the humanity of our brand and connect with our customers in a more meaningful way than the people who live and breathe it every day,” said Molly Kinsella, vp of creative, content and operations, in an email. 

Marketers said cost savings wasn’t so much a driving factor in the decision, as much as speed, agility, efficiencies and the ability to recruit top talent for the in-house team with opportunities like Super Bowl.

That a company would tap its in-house team for Super Bowl work isn’t surprise, especially when the work is more integrated. “When [a campaign is] more deeply integrated [with] social or other activities, it’s more complicated to execute, oftentimes it’s taken in-house because lots of folks in the organization need to get involved,” Allen Adamson, brand consultant and co-founder of Metaforce, previously told Digiday.

“It’s more about ownership,” said McRae. “Living and breathing the brand every day, knowing what we want to do from a business perspective. True ownership is something you can achieve in a much clearer way when you do the work in-house.”

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