In-house Issues: Small Agency, Big Idea

I was speaking with a colleague the other night about a conference he had attended that focused on issues relevant to small agencies. He described a “new” agency business model that was proposed by one of the speakers that seems especially relevant to in-house teams. As even he admitted, it wasn’t earth shattering, but he hadn’t really considered it a viable, even essential, idea until now.

The idea, quite simply, is that in today’s economy, with corporations moving away from hefty retainers with big agencies to per project relationships with their creative vendors, the smaller virtual agency paradigm will reign supreme.

More specifically, it espouses an agency structure that includes a handful of strategic creative talent leveraging relationships with numerous freelance designers, copywriters, programmers etc. to provide cost effective, targeted services for their clients. The core, full-time team would possess expertise in branding, tier 1 creative and broad project and collaborative creative management. They would be able to assemble teams tailored to best implement the projects assigned to them by their clients under the core team’s guidance.

This is a model that can easily be adopted by companies for their in-house groups. I would argue that it’s even more efficient and beneficial for any corporation, with even modest marketing services needs, than using smaller outside agencies for several reasons.

First, the core team would possess important institutional branding and procedural knowledge that and agency team wouldn’t. They would be looking to save the company money and always have the companies’ best interests at heart. Communication with the strategic group would be easier and more efficient. Finally, there would be greater transparency and an ability to reward the team for good performance, incentivizing them to consistently produce great results.

At a time when many in-house groups are finding their teams being slowly whittled away by the bean counters, this cost efficient and strategically driven model may be worth proposing.