The value of agencies, particularly the big powerhouses of old à la Mad Men, is being questioned now more than ever. And yet, while the global players are negotiating these challenges it would be a mistake to jump on the bandwagon of generalised assumption.
In an age of ever-on, 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, gig-economy services, in theory we can get anything we need almost instantly. Businesses everywhere take advantage of this by reducing costly retainers with agencies – with infinite choice at your fingertips, plus the speed at which things change, our needs as clients change just as fast. Can agencies keep up?
It’s now the work of a moment to connect once-remote offices, teams and individuals – video, the Internet and cloud computing means we’re no longer reliant on geographical proximity.
This means businesses are free to pick their service providers and freelancers from pretty much anywhere in the world, and to develop their own in-house teams in different, cheaper locations.
This is all the more important against a challenging economic backdrop and with so many always-on platforms to produce content for – many businesses conclude that they may as well have salaried members of staff who are fully immersed, and versed, in their brand for what they’re spending with an agency.
No more the one-stop shop?
Print, TV, radio, Facebook, YouTube, VR…the list just keeps growing. As our content landscape becomes increasingly myriad, integrated service agencies can seem like the jack of all trades and master of none.
A growing trend for businesses that can employ a designer or two for day jobs is to choose highly specialist agencies who position themselves as the leaders in a niche field for infrequent work – the vertical services model.
But – there’s a limit. Working with so many unique agencies can feel like spinning plates, and could open you up to the dangers of brand inconsistency.
Specialist services, on demand
As with most things, the truth is that there’s no hard and fast answer. The best option is somewhere in between the two extremes – using specialist agencies for the work that goes beyond in-house skills, but looking carefully for someone offering a robust service that encompasses everything (and possibly more) that you’re asking for.
Like branding: your brand is more than just a logo. Defining your brand and devising the creative assets is a great example of a one-off project where an agency will add immense value, but you should expect them to cover the entire portfolio of branding.
An agency can also show its strength in sector expertise. Skills can be learned, but insight and understanding are rarer beasts – beyond quick-fix creative work, many clients show an appreciation for sector knowledge.
Above & beyond
Time is money – as with most outsourced work, agencies aren’t necessarily doing something an in-house team can’t. Except that it’s our job, as an agency, to do it faster and at the drop of a hat. Your own creatives are the perfect bridge between your brand and an agency – an agency can extend the possibilities, or create the building blocks which an in-house team then develops.
It’s our job to be at the forefront of creative development, exploring new ideas and testing them out so that we can help to work out what’s right for you. This takes time, research, investment – while you might not provide a small in-house team with this regularly, it’s an integral part of what we do.