How Lucozade overcame the ‘friction’ between agencies and its in-house team

As Lucozade’s in-house agency launches its first major campaign as part of its Love Island tie-up, the drinks company’s head of digital marketing says the focus is now on proving effectiveness.

After setting up its in-house agency TED two years ago, Lucozade Ribena Suntory says it has saved “a good deal of money” and is gradually looking to expand its remit within the business, bringing some media buying into the fold too.

However, its success hasn’t been without its challenges, according to Rick Oakley, head of digital marketing and the TED team.

“I definitely have a few more grey hairs from the last couple of years,” he jokes, with one of the biggest challenges being managing the friction between external agencies and TED.

“We’ve done a good job of managing [any conflict] and it’s testament to our agencies Grey and JWT who’ve been very supportive,” says Oakley. “Obviously when it comes to creative routes there is friction but so far, although I wouldn’t say it’s been minimal, I would say it’s been manageable.”

Oakley says another challenge has been removing the stigma that in-house teams are “only good for PowerPoint presentations”. Key to overcoming that is “proving yourself early on” with small but high-quality projects.

He explains: “We have been very careful about the level of quality of everything we’ve produced. We had to start small but also needed to produce tangible and measurable output. So we created artwork, images, posters and social media videos for brands and importantly did it for less than our agencies. The level of quality was superb and we soon got brand heads’ attention.”

Oakley says brand teams now come to TED before external agencies to work on campaigns.

This is the advantage we have over agencies; we have a much greater connection to other areas of the business.

Rick Oakley, Lucozade Ribena Suntory

In the two years since its introduction the team has doubled 20 people and TED now works across all the company’s brands, including Lucozade Sport, Ribena and smaller names such as Merchant’s Heart, a product designed to be mixed with spirits. It has just launched its first major campaign for Lucozade Zero as part of its sponsorship of Love Island.

While TED is now looking at what other aspects it can bring in-house, like before it wants to work closely with its agencies to manage any potential friction before it occurs.

“Lucozade is definitely going to bring more in-house as we continue to grow the TED team. We’re quite keen to work closely with MediaCom to understand if there is an opportunity to do media buying in-house around programmatic,” adds Oakley.

But he says it’s about finding the right balance. “We can’t do everything in-house, it’s impossible. We’d have to have a cast of thousands. But three years ago, when we were relying solely on agencies, the balance wasn’t right.”

READ MORE: Why procurement teams aren’t clamouring for brands to in-house

Having a positive impact

The introduction of TED has also had a positive impact on the marketing team as a whole, according to Oakley who has seen a rise in skills-sharing and communication.

He explains: “The marketing team has got more hands-on and creativity has skyrocketed. Our HR director hit upon it when she said ‘because we’re bringing these experts in-house they up-skill everyone else’. From juniors to heads of brands everybody’s learning.”

Oakley cites the Lucozade Sport app arguing that because it was created in-house the brand team could be more active in its development, from coding to understanding possible challenges first hand.

“The feedback we get from everyone, especially brand teams, is that because we’re in the same building, next to the brand and constantly talking about these brands, we understand everything better, and so do they.”

The TED team sits next to marketing and near to the sales and analytics teams. “There’s always a lot of contact and interaction between TED and the marketing team and we encourage that. I say get in the room, talk it over and try to reduce emails and lag,” Oakley explains.

“Proximity really does help. This is the advantage we have over agencies; we have a much greater connection to other areas of the business.”

READ MORE: Lucozade sets up in-house agency to make its marketing work harder

Measuring success

Looking at how marketing drives sales is crucial to Oakley and his team and they help the entire marketing department from social to in-store.

“Marketing is not just big emotional TV ads at Cannes but omnichannel, through-the-line activation to drive sales. So we support the sales team in developing activations in-store and presentations to customers.”

TED also works closely with the analytics team and Oakley is hoping to develop new ways of measuring data in real-time rather than analysing effectiveness after a campaign.

He explains: “I want it to be that as soon as something goes live we can meet every Thursday and get the data in and take a geographic approach, looking at stores and asking, ‘why is that working better in that store?’ We can then compile those learnings mid-campaign so we can make the most of it.”

TED uses the same KPIs as Lucozade’s external agencies, something which Oakley says is “essential”. He explains: “It would be unfair for us to be measured on something different.”

Oakley urges other companies thinking of in-housing to follow suit. “I encourage more people to do this and the biggest surprise for me is the positive impact that in-housing has had on the broader marketing team. It’s been delightful to see TED being embraced by marketing and the impact it has had on the capability of marketing in general and the amazing atmosphere that it has created.”