Running an in-house agency is a challenge. You need to know how to herd cats, plug leaks, and keep the work flowing all at the same time. Demand rises and falls and rises again—and when it does, you can be sure that you’ll hear from all sides that deliverables aren’t going out on time, because there are not enough creative resources.

But here’s the thing. A “lack of creative resources,” while a common refrain within the in-house, is rarely the reality. In fact most of the time a lack of creative resources is not the problem. It’s a symptom.

So what might the actual problem be? It could be several different things and a combination of more than one, but there are 5 issues I’ve seen that are common to resource management. I recommend starting with this list when you’re facing complaints of a lack of creative resources. Resolve the problem and the symptom of perceived creative understaffing will fade.


This is a surprisingly common challenge. It has less to do with individual writers, designers, or directors’ talent and fit than it does with matching your resources to the work in the smartest way.

Maybe you have too many junior creatives, who don’t have the experience or knowledge to do the “reach” work you need. On the other hand, perhaps your department is top-heavy, with too many senior folks who are great at ideation but slow at executing. Or is it that you’re taking on work that you’re not equipped for?

Look at your pain points. Where is the bottleneck happening? When are tasks falling through the cracks? That analysis will tell you if the root cause is improper staffing and talent allocation, rather than the straight-up lack of resources and talent that it might look like from the outside.

Lots of Off-Site Needs

Depending on your brands and marketing needs, your creatives might be in and out of the office constantly (emphasis on out). Experiential campaigns and off-site meetings and photoshoots and any number of other needs may pull talent of all levels out of day-to-day work in the Creative Department, leaving the group thin on busy days.

Let's say you’re situated on the east coast and shoots are done on the west coast. To attend the shoot your senior creative will be gone for at least a week. Having some non-working time is inevitable for travel to and from shoots or other necessary meetings, but if you’re short on resources it’s something you should try to avoid. Take a close look at how many hours your talent is spending on travel, photoshoots, and other tasks that take them away from the office, and ensure you plan coverage.

Scope Creep

Over-delivering. We all want to do it, and yet when we do it drains the in-house. When we ask writers, designers, and directors to deliver work that is outside the scope we are really asking them to be one-and-a-half or two people. Inevitably, this leads to feelings in and outside the department that there is too much work and not enough talent to do it.

This is a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it, and for the occasional project or major initiative it’s perfectly normal and right thing to do. It’s when it becomes the norm that resources become stretched.

Scope creep is a fact of life. But it should not become the rule. If it does it means the scope, Creative Brief, and project plan are not accurate and the in-house team will always feel stretched, under staffed, and not valued.

Incorrect Scopes/Project Plans

While we’re considering the importance of scopes and project plans, it must also be said that there are so many ways that a project can go sideways and cause the team to feel like resources are lacking. Paper calculations do not always correlate with the reality of daily work for creatives.

Let’s say you’ve staffed an Art Director on one brand 0.5 FTE, and another brand 0.5 FTE. Can the same Art Director work on both of those brands? On paper, it may look okay, but is it really going to work. Many factors are at play here, each brand’s life cycle, executional, and production requirements all factor in to the whether one Art Director can work on these two brands successfully.

The Wrong Structure

There is a “traditional” structure for a Creative team. But I say, toss it out the window. Automatically assigning the CW/AD pairing doesn’t work well for modern marketing. A better way to approach the in-house structure is to have a more senior creative doing the work and leading/mentoring. This way everyone is engaged. The less senior person is learning and the more senior person is working and managing.

The structure of the in-house is an essential part of the operational model, and this is not a one size fits all solution. It depends on the marketing plan, how the Marketing Department operates, type of work, volume of work, brands life cycle and the list goes on. Don’t under estimate the importance of the in-house structure, it’s business critical to get it right.

Nimbleness, and not seeing teams as “templates” to be filled, is the key to ensuring you keep your in-house team happy and ideas flowing. When the in-house is staffed strategically and everyone is managed with care in-house agencies thrive.