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The In-house Marketing vs. Agency Model: A Story of Collaboration

By Jen Neumann on December, 26 2018
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In the world of marketing, there's a cycle that happens with almost all brands that reach a certain size: as they expand, the CMO or C-level position decides that things are doing well and that they can put things on simmer.

It's not a bad strategy necessarily—especially in terms of (at least perceived) cost savings and the ability to pivot or refocus. But as brands, their offerings and their customer bases grow, they often need more marketing support to keep up with the constant churn of collateral, digital content, website updates, proposal writing, etc. 

In a recent address at Connect: London, veteran creative John Hegarty made a characteristically brutal assessment of the in-house model. He asserted that working entirely on an in-house model means you end up working "with the most boring people you will ever meet."

"Great creative people are outsiders," he explained. "As soon as you are on the inside, you stop being able to challenge."

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Now to be fair, he's not saying that  in-house teams lack talent. In fact,  in-house teams usually have great ideas—but they can be limited by time and resources and the functional environment of being an employee. We've discussed this in our previous post, Why Marketing (Sometimes) Doesn't Happen.

Employees are hired to say "yes." Consultants are hired to challenge, sometimes say "no," and ultimately to ask, "What if?"

Hegarty went on to give the best quote of the speech, saying that the in-house only model means that "You will spend your whole life working on f***ing baked beans. Now, I like baked beans, but I don’t want to spend my whole life working on them—you need stimulation."

Collaboration Gives Creativity Legs

As a full service-marketing agency, we have worked in many different scenarios, from providing the entire gamut of services and serving in a directional and productive capacity, to offering ongoing support in tandem with a CMO and in-house marketing team. Creativity flourishes best in a collaborative environment where ideas can be shared, the experts are respected (and respectful), and ideas flow freely but are shaped and directed by the goals of the business. 

Sir John Hegarty is an absolute legend in the business, and he delivers compelling statements in the defense of creativity and technology, eschewing the in-house marketing model as valid for a brand that wants to differentiate. We see where he's coming from, but we also believe that partnership is the best way to push a brand further and find growth in new areas. Combining creativity with data and solid, goal-based, measured strategy is where in-house marketing and outside agencies find success, together. 

In other words—you bring the baked beans, we'll bring the beer.

Like our post? Turn this monologue into a conversation by getting in touch with us here, or keep going down the rabbit hole with these similar reads:

How to Work with a Marketing Agency - Our Account Planning Manager, Lydia, gives some advice to help you make the most of your relationship with your marketing agency.

Why Marketing (Sometimes) Doesn't Happen - It may take two to tango, but marketing is a synchronized dance that requires everyone on your team to be in step. 

Barriers to Entry: Shedding Light on the Things That Hold Your Business Back - Tired of stagnating sales and slow growth? It's time to step back and take an honest look at how your customers perceive and interact with your business.


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