Posted on February 4, 2019
I’d like to begin by adding my weight to debunking the theory that in-house teams are the poorer relation to
4Creative (Channel 4), BBC Creative and Leon are but 3 of the many excellent, award winning in-house teams
out there; and I myself have had the pleasure of working with great teams at, amongst others: the BBC,
Wellcome Trust and BNY Mellon. It is evidently clear that good creative work results more from the hiring and
development of talented people, than the location of the room that they’re working in.
There are, however, differences between the 2 models and the following notes are intended to help you decide
which model best suits you in order to make the most of your marketing budget.
Experience and knowledge
It stands to reason that no agency is going to know your business as well as an in-house team. They will likely
have daily contact with marketing staff; an appreciation of the company values and culture; and can be
developed via the same appraisal and reward system as the rest of the business. There will also be more
opportunities to socialise, which can give valuable insight into what people are thinking outside of the constraints
of a meeting room.
Where an agency can add value is in bringing ideas, strategies and experience gained from working with a whole
range of different companies; a broader industry insight, compared with a deeper knowledge in-house.
Creativity and expertise
An in-house team’s deep knowledge of a brand enables them to quickly produce large quantities of work in the
brand style. As Alex Center, Design Director at Coca Cola says: “In-house teams live and breath the brands they
work on and often have more clarity about what the brand stands for.”
Where such an intimate knowledge of a brand can hinder creativity, however, is when the same people that are
responsible for protecting brand consistency are being asked to ‘push the boundaries’, thus leaving them
straddled between 2 seemingly opposing ideals.
Unencumbered by the responsibilities of brand guardianship and the weight of everything that has gone before,
agencies are free to offer fresh thinking and suggest new ideas. It is also likely that an agency would be quicker
to generate new ideas as they are used to doing this on a daily basis.
With an ever proliferating range of marketing channels, it is also worth considering the range of expertise that
you’ll require to successfully deliver your project. This could include project planning and management;
communications strategy; creative concepts and design; messaging; copywriting; website design, development
and SEO; email marketing; online advertising; print design and advertising; conference display panels; social
media and animated video.
Flexibility and cost
I have worked at in-house teams that, in some ways, have been a victim of their own success; in that they have
had so many projects repeated from previous years / quarters that your diary for the year is full before you begin.
This is obviously a great position to be in but it can then be difficult to find the space for new initiatives if you’re
unable to expand.
In these circumstances (and if you can get the budget) agencies can function as a partner to in-house studios,
helping to ease peaks in the work flow. They will be used to working to guidelines and have relatively little red
tape in the way of hiring any freelance help, so can be flexible in adjusting staff numbers according to demand.
In terms of costs, it is usually considered that employing an in-house team will be cheaper than employing an
agency. However there are other factors at play here: you will need a creative space that they can work in;
different hardware and software requirements than you may be used to; and they will require different
management and development skills than you may be used to.
In this way, agencies can also be viewed as cost effective: Reducing overheads for your business and giving you
flexibility in the design services that you select.
I hope that these notes have helped illuminate some of the key differences between in-house and external
agencies and will be of help to you in making the most of your marketing budget.
If you have a project that you think would be best suited to an external agency, or are looking for an agency to
partner with your in-house team, then Talisman would be happy to hear from you.