August 23, 2017

When Do You Hire an Ad Agency?

  • Subline: How do you know when to rely on your in-house marketing team and when to call in a partner?
Should you hire an agency, or should you handle it internally? Should you hire an agency, or should you handle it internally?

An internal marketing staff is essential to most organizations. Someone needs to take the lead on advertising and communications strategies, and the work ain’t going to do itself. But most businesses don’t have the resources to tackle every task on the marketing checklist - and even when an organization has a large internal team, some jobs are better left to third parties. Enter agencies like tdg. So how do you decide when to keep a project in-house and when to call in someone from the outside?

There are a few important reasons your company might consider bringing in an advertising agency partner.

To Get Depth of Knowledge
In-house marketing teams tend to be generalists, because they have to be: managing the day-to-day marketing concerns of an entire organization requires wearing a lot of hats. Unless your organization has the resources to support a very large team, they’re bound to discover some knowledge gaps.

That’s where agencies can provide a little extra expertise. Even very small agencies often have dedicated specialists in specific areas of digital marketing, public relations, or creative production. At tdg, for instance, we’ve got people on our team with experience in consumer research, strategic messaging, and media relations tactics for public utility rate cases. Other staffers specialize in creating targeted online campaigns to increase bookings for campgrounds. They’re very narrow niches of expertise, but that knowledge can be incredibly valuable to clients tackling those challenges for the first time.

To Get A Reality Check
If an organization relies too much on its internal marketing team, it runs the risk of creating an echo chamber. Exhibit Number One: Pepsi’s ill-fated Kendall Jenner ad from this spring. Their in-house shop took most of the blame for the commercial, which flopped very hard (and very publicly) just hours after being released.

To be fair, agencies have been responsible for their fair share of tone-deaf creative catastrophes, but organizations can reduce the risk of advertising failures by bringing a little external perspective to the table. Because agencies work with multiple clients and spend their time across a broader cultural backdrop, they can be a better check against ideas that won’t land well.

Having an ad agency on retainer can help you keep your long-term strategic goals in focus.

To Keep Your Strategy On Track
Your organization is a well-oiled machine. You’ve done the research, you’ve had the executive retreats, and you’ve got great short- and long-term strategic plans. But even the best internal marketing staff can get bogged down and distracted with everyday tasks, and pretty soon those planning documents can become neglected.

An agency partner can help your team stay focused on the big picture. They’ll take your marketing plan off the shelf, work with your staff to keep it updated, and make sure new initiatives are in line with your broader business goals.

To Save Time
Your internal marketing team may have the expertise to tackle a new project. But do they have the time? Often they’re so busy handling the day-to-day marketing concerns of your organization (which is, after all, their job) that they can’t quickly shift gears. And even if it’s justified, hiring a new staff position will take too much time for a project with a looming deadline.

If you’ve got a good relationship with an agency partner, they’ll likely be nimble enough to scale up quickly for fast-turnaround projects. That extra agility can create a measurable competitive advantage.

To Save Money
Occasionally an executive will assume it’s more cost-effective to hire new in-house marketing staff than it is to partner with an agency. Sometimes it is. Often, it isn’t. The costs of recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires can be easy to overlook, but they’re steep, to say nothing of the benefits packages that come on top of regular salaries. Larger staffs require greater overhead (everything from office space and equipment to HR support).

Agencies, on the other hand, are self-contained units. They often work on flat retainer fees that cover a set scope of work. The costs are stable and predictable. And in the event that your organization needs to scale up or down quickly, it’s often cheaper (and easier) to increase or decrease your agency’s retainer than it is to hire or fire new staff.

Additionally, because agencies often work with multiple clients in a local market, they’re usually able to negotiate better rates for media services and marketing support products. It can be less expensive to buy media through an agency - even after their markup - than it is to buy it directly.

Of course, agency partnerships don’t happen overnight. You’ll need to identify a firm that’s right for your organization, and the agency will want to learn everything it can about your business. That all takes time. That’s why it’s a good idea for your organization to build a relationship with an agency even if you might not need their support right away. Then, when you need a hand, you can quickly call in reinforcements.