Another story here about how more and more companies are bringing marketing creative and even media-buying responsibilities in-house. This decision seems to be part of a trend as an earlier story identified the same behavior, pointing out that the moves were at least in part because specialized roles were now easier to hire people for as those skills have entered the mainstream.
That’s great and is understandable, as is the need to appear hip and innovative by mimicking the cultures of startups and others that have used in-house teams from the outset to produce off-kilter and popular media and advertising collateral.
I wonder, though, if these companies are ready for the long-term commitment they’ve signed up for.
These kinds of stories are so concerned with the big flashy trends that some details are often overlooked, In this case that includes what kinds of relationships the companies are maintaining with agencies for specific services of some kinds. My hope is that they’re doing just that, otherwise they’re putting themselves in a fairly precarious position.
When you decide to bring more functions in-house, you’re making the decision that you’re the one best positioned to manage your own future. That’s a good attitude to have in many respects. It also puts you in the position of needing to stay on top of an evolving set of skills and expertise and be knowledgeable enough to know how to hire the best people in a field that may still be developing.
That’s a lot to put on a human resources person who may be more of a generalist than anything else. And in my experience those people, as good as they may be, aren’t always able to get the best information from department heads who think they’re looking for X because they themselves aren’t sufficiently up to speed on the latest and greatest happenings. This is the kind of situation that leads to those infamous “Looking for 5 years experience in a field/technology that’s only existed for 2 years” job postings that drive everyone crazy.
Agencies have scaled to handle this kind of thing more quickly and efficiently. Because they’re generally staffed with people whose job it is to keep their pulse on developments in their field, they can help the hiring team write effective job descriptions and vet qualified candidates. That first-mover position makes them more attractive to candidates as well because the agencies then have a reputation for being ahead of the curve.
I’ll admit I’m biased toward the agency model in many regards, having spent over half my professional career working at or with them. But in my experience they adapt much more quickly to changes than other companies, who are usually weighed down by internal bureaucracies resistant to change and skeptical about the need to spend big money to hire specialized talent, money agencies are more free with because they can directly recoup it through client billings.
I’m all for controlling more of your message and destiny. If the goal is to future-proof your advertising/marketing/public relations program, though, there may be more benefit in sticking with your agency.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.