November 02, 2017
/ by Cision Contributor
There’s a new trend in the creative world — more companies are building their own in-house teams for a range of creative work that used to be assigned to external agencies. In fact, nearly 60 percent of brands who are members of the Association of National Advertisers say they have in-house creative teams, which is an increase of about 18 percent over the past seven years.
This makes sense for a few reasons. For one, agencies (particularly large ones) tend to be slower than in-house teams. As a marketing leader, you are bound by an agency’s schedule and timeline, whereas with an internal team, you have complete control over your deadlines and can push campaigns out more quickly.
There’s also less of a learning curve involved in working with internal team members. It can take several weeks to get an agency up to speed on details about your company’s products, voice, goals and ongoing initiatives. Agencies also need to be educated on your internal data, technology platforms, and processes, which can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
Lastly, some leaders feel that in-house teams are more cost-effective than agencies. This is debatable, though, as there are hidden costs related to hiring and replacing fixed staff over time. But the prevailing sentiment is that it can be less expensive to execute certain tasks internally.
Despite the trend to go in-house, brands still collaborate frequently with external agencies. According to a 2017 study, 68 percent of internal creative teams work with outside agencies. But as brands continue to build and expand their in-house capabilities, companies and agencies alike are beginning to wonder what their relationship will look like in the future.
When it comes to the agency versus in-house debate, I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I started my career at AOL in the late 1990s, leading our in-house creative team while the company was growing into one of the hottest digital properties on the planet. And for the past 14 years, I’ve led a marketing agency, helping other brands acquire new customers.
In the early years at AOL, we mostly did everything ourselves. We were moving very quickly, and we needed to make decisions on the fly. We also had some cumbersome proprietary tools and we simply didn’t have time to get outsiders up to speed.
However, as AOL grew and our small team matured into a department of 100-plus people, I made it a point every quarter to partner with outside resources to tap into their expertise and integrate their perspective into all that we did. For the most part, our agency partnerships helped ensure we met our aggressive growth goals.
But that’s not to say everything was smooth sailing. There were also plenty of frustrating moments, particularly when agencies would come in thinking they knew everything about our brand and what we “needed” without listening to our input.
By the time I left AOL to start my own agency, I had a clearer idea of what an agency should — and, more importantly, should not — be. I learned that the best agencies are ones that listen to clients’ insights and challenges and work to become an extension of their team. They make their clients’ success their top priority.
Even if you have a healthy in-house creative team, you can still reap countless benefits from agency partnerships. Here are three examples:
Despite the growing prevalence of internal creative teams, the relationship between brands and agencies is far from over. Rather, it’s evolving.
As marketing experiences converge and become more complex, brands looking to make the most of their in-house resources should seek the right agencies for their broader perspective, skills, and expertise. And on the other side of the coin, agencies need to engage with clients with open ears and shared goals and adapt to their timelines, systems and processes wherever possible.
After leading successful direct programs at AOL, Tim Carr founded LIFT Agency in 2003 and serves as the chief lifter. Tim is dedicated to generating positive results for direct and digital marketing objectives, and his clients trust that the LIFT team will create results-lifting solutions to their complex marketing issues.
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