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Creative agency vs in-house

Wayne McMaster

15 April 2016

Creativity does not reside solely with a brand and marketing agency like ourselves here at Zeke.

More and more we are finding our clients with an in-house creative team. With the increasing need for more time intensive forms of marketing, such as social media and blogging, many high-end interior brands are grappling with the decision of building an in-house marketing team versus outsourcing to an agency. The question around should you, can be found in how much you value marketing. Marketing directors are looking to do more with less and reduce costs; and the constant rise of digital, social and mobile marketing are requiring a quicker, nimbler response.

The reasons why brands choose to keep their creative in-house are varied. Sometimes it’s a decision based purely on cost, while in other instances it’s about having a dedicated internal team who are committed solely to that product/brand. Other times, a business may feel their proposition is compelling enough and straightforward enough not to warrant the creative wizardry of the external specialist studio.

So what are the pros and con’s of considering taking design and marketing in-house?

Going in-house

The good

  • There will be a strong, inherent understanding of the product/brand and how it operates in the market
  • It will be easier access to other parts of the business – such as product development team
  • Typically, it will be more cost effective than consistently using an agency, however you should factor in the full employment costs of NI, Pension contributions and Holidays allowance.

The not-so-good

  • The may be a potential lack of perspective i.e. being too close, involved with the product/brand.
    It might not be possible to attract the top talent, as many gifted creatives will be drawn towards the variety of work on offer in the agency world
  • There may be less understanding of what will be well received and deliver results.
  • Creatives also need time to breathe – when they're embedded as part of commercial function, creativity is suppressed and their output is seen as a resource, rather than a discipline.
  • Dependent on the level of creativity required, assembling, motivating and managing an in-house team is a skill that many client teams may simply not have. Creative thinking and conceptual design needs a particular process, environment, and working culture to flourish.
  • All too often, though, the in-house team is focused on daily output, rather than understanding what makes customers tick and so can potentially miss developing strategies to get closer to those customers. Little investment i made in learning – i.e. keeping abreast of new techniques and technologies, seeking inspiration and spending time away from the marketing department; all of which are all essential if a business is going to build and develop an ambitious, talented and effective marketing team.
  • Also, businesses tend not to measure the return on investment from their in-house team. For example, for every pound spent by each team member, what is the value being brought to the business? Equally, how motivated are the team by numbers?

By comparison, marketing and creative agencies understand the importance of knowing how much value they’ve returned for the client and what impact their work is having on the business. Effectiveness is their currency.

Working with a specialist high-end agency

We can't and never will know as much about our client's brands or customers as our clients and this is exactly where our strength lies. An informed, relevant and yet slightly distanced perspective is what gives us our advantage.

There is of course much flexibility in the way a brand chooses to develop its creative output. While some in-house creative teams take a full service approach, others choose to use a more hybrid model that involves a mix of both internal and external resource.
Sometimes ideas will be generated in-house but then executed using external skills. An in-house team may wish to side-step a creative agency altogether by generating the concept themselves and then using third-party production assistance to make the campaign a reality.
This hybrid way of working may prove to be the perfect balance for many high-end interiors brands, providing that good communication and a ‘joined-up’ way of working is adopted by all involved. Smart clients are decoupling production from the creation of the idea; so the reverse may also the case whereby the creativity muscles are flexed external, setting up the strategic direction and concept where the production and implementation is then handled by the internal team. That is good for them and also for us. It allows us to focus on what we are good at, rather than endlessly trying to justify fees for elements that clients feel they can buy cheaper or deliver faster by internal means.

Clients need agencies as much as agencies need clients. The in-house department is here to stay and has its part to play. As the external creative specialist, however, we still remain a key weapon in maximising high-end interior brand's advantage.

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