Selective outsourcing — deciding what projects to keep in-house and what to outsource

creative outsourcing.jpg

There has been a deep surge in the establishment of internal agencies from the past decade. The three major reasons that governed this change were the prioritization given to creative control, cost savings and speed to market. Today priorities still remain the same but with the rise in the demand to produce more marketing content and digital work at a faster pace, the strategy needs to be optimized to provide much-needed scalability and flexibility.

The new strategy discovered and implemented by global brands these days is the hybrid approach of working with both in-house and external teams. The collaboration and integration of resources from internal and external agencies only help in overcoming the marketing production challenges and save costs.

As per the IHAF 2018 State-of-the-Industry Report, 64% of corporations have an in-house agency—an increase of 52% from a decade ago. The study also states that 67% of IHAs are not adequately staffed to carry out mass creative production and distribution. And here the existence of external agencies or off-shore creative production teams play a crucial role, as their expertise lies in execution at scale according to the latest creative industry standards (IHAF report also states that 85% IHA outsource to external providers).

The hybrid approach of co-sourcing can be beneficial for brands and their in-house agencies, wherein they would be able to identify specific execution tasks and assess the capabilities and competencies of an outsourced partner to mitigate risks and maximize profits.

Deciding what projects to outsource is always easier said than done!

Though the type and amount of production work that can be taken off from the in-house creative teams is a tough choice that varies from agency to agency. The question of the hour is what production work can actually be outsourced to generate more value for the business?

There are creative internal agencies that do all the strategic planning and ideation of a campaign and outsource the execution work, which requires a special skill set. Even before thinking of outsourcing, it is very important for the internal agencies to understand what they do best and what they don’t. This clarity would help them make decisions about outsourcing work to external partners.

Here is a list of projects that in-house agencies can outsource to external partners without much fuss:

Cross-media adaptations: If you've got an idea for a campaign but lack the resources to execute it across print, digital and video then go for the collaborative outsourcing model. You can outsource creative adaptations or even ideation up to a certain extent. Here, the internal agency could create the master artwork and the external partner will manage the adaptations across multiple channels.

Campaign localization & translations: For global brands, it is very important to localize their campaigns for target geographies. External production partners can support in-house teams with translation and localization of existing campaigns. This would help to keep the creative idea intact while personalizing content for the target audience in a cost-efficient way.

Rebranding projects: Outsourcing brings in support for IHAs on large, strategic projects like rebranding which could be difficult to execute in the face of challenging internal priorities. The blended approach provides the flexibility to expand.

Seasonal peaks: In-house teams can leverage the help of external partners during seasonal peaks. With proper knowledge transfer and collaboration, external and in-house teams work in tandem to handle peaks. It further helps the brand to scale marketing production when needed.

The above listed are just a few examples of the project types that IHAs can outsource to external partners. However, the exact requirement differs and the ultimate decision has to be taken after carefully evaluating the requirements.

Selective outsourcing works in the best interest of the brands and their in-house agencies

In-house teams have the leverage to select the part(s) or a creative project that they want to keep in-house or outsource when needed. While this process does require collaborative efforts but can improve ROI in the long run. By doing so, they can overcome the following challenges:

Staffing: Making sure that a team is appropriately staffed with skilled professionals is a constant struggle IHAs face on a daily basis. Accessibility of flexible staffing models during peak times without adding up the headcount to manage the unanticipated and excessive workflow is the major advantage for IHAs to work in partnership with the external agencies.

Time: With more and more requirement of creatives in the advertising industry, the time crunch is the major creative operations challenge. However, working in different time zones and locations can work as an advantage for a creative team when advertising campaigns are to be produced and delivered under tight deadlines. The production done by external agencies around the clock empowers IHAs with ample time on their hands to ideate.

Cost: Hiring an external team for a predefined time, or a particular project is always more cost efficient than hiring employees with their annual salary and benefits. By outsourcing the production support to an external agency, you don’t just cut down substantial costs of ramping up a team but also gain control and flexibility.

Summary — The hybrid approach is to empower brands and their in-house agencies and not to break them

In today’s marketing landscape, collaboration between internal and external agencies is very important. It allows both the parties to leverage each other’s strengths and deliver better ROI to the business. In short, the hybrid approach is best suited to sustain the competitive advantage and stay ahead in the game.

Express KCS, one of the leading creative production partners have been working closely with brands and their in-house agencies from the US and UK to support them with marketing campaign execution across digital, video and print. To explore how we can partner with your existing team and provide 24/7 creative support, contact us at