Apple looks to rein in marketing costs, accelerates internal ad team buildup

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The world's wealthiest technology company is in the midst of pulling together the industry's largest in-house advertising agency, a move said to be motivated in part by a desire to reduce costs and in part by a need to be more agile and roll out creative more quickly.

A plan to double the size of Apple's internal ad team to some 600 staffers has been expanded, according to Ad Age, with the target now being a lofty 1,000 employees. The group, headed by creative director Hiroki Asai, will constitute possibly the biggest house agency on earth.

Despite reports that Apple has begun pitting the house team against TBWA\Media Arts Lab — Apple's agency of record — and inviting a number of other agencies to pitch campaigns, the iPhone maker isn't thought to be on the verge of parting ways with its longtime partners.

Instead, the buildup is believed to represent a new all-hands-on-deck approach to Apple's marketing as it shifts from primarily television spots and print placements to a new strategy that integrates far-reaching internet campaigns. That includes an increasingly visible presence on social media, a medium that Apple has traditionally held at arm's length and which requires a more agile approach than conventional media.

"They said they have so much going on from a marketing-communications standpoint that MAL is part of their plan, but their expectations for marketing are much greater than what MAL is built to do," one advertising executive said to AdAge. That sentiment was echoed by another industry insider, who said that each of Apple's existing agencies were "max busy."

As part of that shift, the company could be looking to reallocate funds, a likely explanation for Apple's recent audit of TBWA\MAL and its media buyer. That audit was designed "partly to find some cost savings," a source told the Wall Street Journal.

Apple spent more than $1 billion on advertising last year and is believed to be worth as much as $150 million in yearly revenues for TBWA\MAL, which serves no other clients.