Interview: Agency vs in-house with Paul Fontaine

An interview with Paul Fontaine, Head of UX at GVC Group, about working in agency vs in-house in the Creative industry.

In this ‘agency vs in-house’ interview series led by Salt Senior Consultant for Creative, Holley Potts, we speak to customers from all different sectors within the world of digital to answer the age-old question – agency or in-house? This series is designed to give you a snapshot of creative career journeys and insights into what is currently happening in their businesses. Over to Holley… 

Today, I’m speaking to Paul Fontaine, Head of UX at GVC Group on how in-house is on par with agency’s design nowadays right through to innovation around video conferencing…

Holley – What a year 2020 was! The landscape has massively shifted in the world of digital and design, so Paul, what questions should companies be asking when they are looking for designers today?

Paul – The landscape of the business changes so much, businesses themselves struggle to see what they are looking for. So, if they need a Product Designer, you need to ask the questions what are you doing day to day? What are you trying to achieve in 18 months? Are you trying to make your process lean? That is what I am always trying to do on my team. For instance, if we want to up the cadence in User Testing, we look for testing in our UX designers when hiring because when we are designing things like the app at GVC for Ladbrokes and Coral, the market is so aggressive and changing constantly and for this, we need designers who are brilliant in Testing. You constantly need to be ahead of the game, and it is looking at where you can develop those skills in-house.

Holley – I can only imagine working in the Poker world how quickly the market moves! Indeed, the same can be said at agencies, working at an incredible pace which some people thrive on. What other differences do you notice compared to in-house in ways of working?

Paul – It’s getting the business to rethink the idea of how to present our work so that it looks like that of an agency. I try to develop my guys so they can present well to the stakeholders. It’s about trying to exude this professionalism of an agency. So, the business doesn’t see the Design Team of in-house as just a department.

In terms of agency vs in-house working together, agencies can be bolder and work at a much quicker pace. It takes a certain type of person to work at agency as there is a bit more jostling for positions and proving yourself which I think is always good at certain points of your career but maybe not so much for structured development. In-house provides a better platform for that.

Holley – As you said, agencies can most definitely be bolder, especially when it comes to design and ideas. In what way have you seen the change of in-house design progress over the years? 

Paul – Years ago in-house work really did look like that of an in-house client, us in-house brands have come forward so much since then. The creation of work has dramatically improved and looks like that of an agency, especially amongst start-ups. It can almost surpass an agency in my eyes.

Holley – The designs are definitely blurring between these two sectors. They are almost rivalling each other in comparison now which is quite exciting! Speaking of the two, would you ever go back to agency? 

Paul – I think am comfortable in-house for now. I suppose it’s more to do with the characters to put myself in and around them. I love to challenge and like to do well. It’s never been about the money, but all about the challenge. It would have to be about the clients rather than the agency itself.

Holley – So a loyal devotee to in-house for now then! To finish of the talk, I am sure the audience would love to hear your final thoughts on what digital movements we may start to see as a result from 2020? 

Paul – Video conferencing and virtual whiteboards will definitely become more prominent. They too need to become more versatile for this to happen, there will be blurring of the lines with these different platforms. I am starting to see apps produced for video platforms so you can collaborate more seriously. This can make your workshops really interactive and fun. Companies will also need to look at how they can hold massive online conferences of up to 1000 people for example, without crashing.

You want the communication between the work and delivery tools to be more cohesive. People will start to have huge screens dedicated to video conferencing at their homes too. I can only imagine what their tech will be like!

Lastly, for things to become more personable, we will need to look at the innovation of how we interface with people virtually. The other thing that has come up is turning your cameras on in virtual meetings. It is so important to see your face and a lack of etiquette that needs to be addressed here! Call me old fashioned but I think it is so important.

Stay tuned for more interviews, coming your way. If you would like to find out more about the series or find out how we can help you with your hiring, get in touch with Holley via hpotts@welovesalt.com.

Check out all of the interviews in our agency vs inhouse series here.

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