Traditional and In-house Agencies: It’s Not Us vs. Them

By Dan Stone / Aug 29, 2017



The debate pitting traditional advertising agencies against in-house agencies has raged for decades. Which provides a better work environment? Which is right for your company? Both have strengths and weaknesses, and a gaggle of opinions exist as to which is best.

But for us at Oliver Russell, the answer isn’t about which is better. It’s about how the two can work together.

In-house agencies already know their client inside out. They eat, sleep and breathe their company’s mission. They are passionate about the products and friendly with the people who make them.

But what happens when that knowledge and proximity puts them too close to their brand? This is when an outside agency can step in and help steer them away from unforeseen marketing pitfalls. Think Pepsi and its misstep with the Kendall Jenner video.

If you recall, Pepsi’s in-house team created this infamous video, which featured reality star/supermodel Kendall Jenner. The global drink giant set out to shoot a protest video that sent a message of peace and unity. In the end, critics panned the video and Pepsi was accused of appropriating a racial protest movement to sell soft drinks. 

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  • Because in-house teams are so passionate about their brand and products, they sometimes have a tendency to choose inclusivity in lieu of keeping things simple. In other words, they occasionally fall into the trap of putting too much information into a single ad.

    At an outside agency, however, years of working with a variety of clients in various industries has taught them how to cut through the clutter and deliver succinct messages. They’ve learned to filter through excess information to create simple, powerful ideas. And they can teach in-house agencies how to do this. 

    A wealth of knowledge

    How else can outside agencies help their in-house compatriots? They can share processes and techniques that will get in-house marketers from point A to point B faster. Because external agencies have worked in many industries, they’ve developed specific workflows to reach strategic solutions faster.

    When in-house teams are lean on the staff side, external agencies can help fill gaps in areas such as social, digital or branding. They can share knowledge about integrated marketing campaigns to in-house team members who feel siloed and tied to specific marketing roles.

    Objectivity is key

    Perhaps one of the biggest benefits an external agency can offer an in-house team is objectivity. Brands all over the world turn to outside agencies for third-party opinions, fresh perspectives and top-notch creativity. Through years of keeping a pulse on the industry, outside agencies have acquired a taste for what works and what doesn’t. They’ve also learned to say no to clients to save them from costly mistakes—and they can do the same for in-house agencies.

    Social Responsibility as a Bonus

    At Oliver Russell, we like to share with everyone—including internal agencies—the value of social responsibility and using business as a force for good. Defining purpose and values can differentiate agencies struggling to survive in saturated markets. Finding meaning through work and placing a greater emphasis on employee well-being can make all the difference. Learn more about this here

    Our agency doesn’t believe in keeping our recipe for success—our secret sauce—a secret from in-house agencies. We want to help them. Oliver Russell offers in-house agencies a creativity jumpstart program in which we review their current creative and offer ideas for motivation and freshness. If you’d like to learn more, please contact Holly Conti at 208-344-6523.

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    Thumbnails People Dan Stone

    Dan Stone

    Dan is an award-winning senior copywriter with more than 13 years of experience. He’s worked for agencies and companies in Idaho, Illinois and Washington, D.C. Dan’s clients have included the Smithsonian Institution, Comcast, Department of Defense and Virginia Tourism Corporation. He also uses his writing for good, whether recruiting others to help refugees locally or protect animals in Africa. You can usually find Dan pounding away at his keyboard, hunting for big ideas and causes to support.