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It’s an unfortunate trend but whenever the economy shuffles its feet and things begin to look a little dark, brands look to cut their marketing budgets.
A perfect example: in October this year, McDonalds posted its first sales loss in 9 years and the immediate call at in investors’ meeting by CEO Don Thompson was for a potential agency review.
That’s an agency review: not a processes review, not a customer service review, not a competitor review… An agency review.
Now say what you want about agencies and the strategies they suggest, you have to remember that the final sign-off for anything comes from the client.
So the client looks at the proposed strategy from the agency and says “Yes. That’s a good idea” and then the strategy goes into effect.
If the strategy works, everyone gets ice-cream. If the strategy doesn’t work, only the agency gets shafted.
And everyone buys into the fiction that it’s the agency’s fault alone – especially when it comes to digital marketing.
Digital marketing gets led to the slaughter first because a) it’s measurable and b) it’s something everyone does, right?
Everyone has a Facebook page and a Twitter account and a Google Plus account (ok, maybe that’s just me).
Anyone can design a website, right?
Anyone can shoot a GoPro video, right?
All of the above is true.
So it’s no wonder everyone’s an expert.
Maybe that’s why a lot of brands are thinking about taking their digital marketing in-house.
After all, with an in-house team you get complete control over the product, you don’t have to pay agency fees, and you spend the savings on more ice-cream.
On paper, I agree that it’s a brilliant idea.
In reality, it’s not.
And here’s why.
Like it or not, the people that work at the agencies are (for the most part) experts at what they do.
They’re people who have a knack of thinking beyond what’s expected.
More importantly, they’re outward facing.
Being outward facing is the most important advantage – and something few marketing managers or internal marketing teams do (in my experience).
The thing about being outward facing is that agencies don’t just focus on the client brand. They look at the competitor. They look at the market.
They look at art. They watch movies. They read books. They play with new apps and tech. They work across FMCG, auto, tech, fashion…
And the people who work in agencies are specialists whose job it is to take all their knowledge and experience, and put it to work for your brand.
In digital marketing, the more outward facing your agency is the better.
An internal client-side team can never be as effective as an agency.
There’s office politics, there’s the demands of the marketing managers and most importantly, there’s the fact that they’re too close to the brand.
Internal teams become entrenched with the way things are and never look at the way things could be.
Obviously, I’m writing from my experience and I dare say that you’ll probably be able to cite an example of an internal creative/marketing team that’s contrary to my viewpoint .
Let me ask you this then: where are those internal teams when creativity awards are being handed out?
Where are their research papers?
Where are their innovations?
In all likelihood, they don’t exist and that’s through no fault of their own.
You can’t coach and play at the same time. You’re either on the pitch or you’re calling the plays.
Get an agency that can help you make the big plays.
And leave them to it.