Jordan Lonsdale has been in the game long enough to live the two, often discussed sides of the same industry: in-house teams and agencies.
According to the Wonderhatch account director, there are several misconceptions thrown into the mix when discussing agencies vs in-house teams and, as a person who's known and lived both, he is especially qualified to discuss the pros and cons of the two approaches.
Long story short, in Jordan's opinion, agencies should be the prime choice for brands looking to shine. Here's why.
In-house VS Agency: Which is the right path for me?
Choosing between in-house and working with an agency has become a matter of heated debate amongst marketers. In-house teams live and breathe their brand and have an unparalleled in-depth understanding of it. I have spent most of my career working in-house for brands, such as Virgin Atlantic, JD Sports and Candy Crush. But no option is perfect and at the same time as gaining insight into how in-house resources work, I also learned about their shortcomings. And now that I’ve made the big switch to agency-side, I want to share the pros and cons of in-house vs agency, and why it matters.
Knowing the brand
With an in-house model, the brand almost becomes part of the employee’s DNA. Lengthy induction courses and immersions help embed the team into the brand. Employees embody the brand, developing a real in-depth understanding of its innermost workings, the finest details of its products or services.
This is great if you don’t allow your in-house model to stagnate. Creative teams can sometimes become overly tied to the brand, falling into bad or lazy habits. They become restricted by their own brand knowledge, too immersed to find any creative freedom. They become stale.
There is a general assumption that agencies simply won’t know a brand as well as an in-house team. But a good agency will always take the time to get to know a brand’s vision, core values, purpose and customers. The level of brand knowledge needed for an amazing campaign does not need to run as deep as it does with in-house creatives.
Challenging the brand
A good agency will know enough to push a brand team creatively and challenge them to be more inventive and innovative. While they may be aware of a brand’s specific boundaries, they will not be bound by the molecular detail that usually governs an in-house team. This can be a huge positive if a brand wants to push awareness with an atypical campaign.
Brands that have in-house resources will often feel they don’t need agency help. This in-house resource is, of course, great for fast turnaround on jobs that require collaboration between internal stakeholders. But experience has taught me, resources can quickly be exhausted. You can only do so much. And you can often become too narrow in your thinking as a result.
In-house teams can lack the ability to expand and contract with demand. Brands with in-house resources should still seek agency partners who can seamlessly become an extension of their existing teams, as and when required. Agencies are not there to take over but to support and collaborate, working with the brand towards a common goal – creating amazing content that works.
Collaborating with an agency that can flex ensures no job is too big or too small. There is no risk of over commitment. Good agencies will also bring a network of highly skilled freelancers that can be called on for further support as and when needed. Working with a specialist agency magnifies that agility even further.
Good agencies will always take the time to get to know a brand's values and guidelines
The need to be agile is why I believe every brand with in-house resource needs to consider retaining a supporting agency, especially at a time of uncertainty. They are nimble, the overheads are relatively small, helping them deliver real value, and the hierarchy is less complicated. This brings major advantages to the brand. The right agencies can respond and react swiftly. Their simple structure allows brands to develop a good personal relationship with all the key people assigned to their project.
Another point to consider is the specific skill sets that a specialist agency can bring. If a brand was to hire a team internally to create and produce film and photography content, they would need a highly skilled, specialist and expensive crew. But brands usually only have a few major campaigns a year. The cost of recruitment, HR, training, and equipment can quickly become a solution that is far from cost effective. And particularly so in the current climate.
A common misconception is one of brand protection and security. But there is no safety blanket that comes as standard with having an in-house team. Someone may become sick or hand in their notice suddenly, mid-campaign. And then what? Finding the right replacement or freelance support can take time and cost money, jeopardising projects. With an agency solution, brands always have that added peace of mind that no matter what, the project will be delivered to budget and on time.
Brands can look to an agency as something to compliment them, to help them drive more value out of the team they already have, and to help take the pressure off when challenges arise. This is especially true when brands want to push their boundaries and navigate their way through tough market conditions.