The value of agency partners in an in-house world

Jones, Nagy, Archibald, McKechnie, and Stein at Campaign US breakfast briefing.
Jones, Nagy, Archibald, McKechnie, and Stein at Campaign US breakfast briefing.

In-house teams are helping streamline services, but still agencies bring big thinking to the table.

As the old west saying goes: "God created men and Sam Colt made them equal."

When it comes to the power struggle between in-house and agency work, those words ring quite true, with tech standing in for Sam Colt as the playing field seems to even. 

At least this was the message at the latest Campaign US’ Breakfast briefing, "When the Consultants Met the Creatives," with Accenture, and Droga5 in partnership with Results International in New York City on Tuesday. 

"A recent ANA study said 90 percent of brands are doing more and more in-house, and I think that’s because they aren’t happy with the solutions they’re getting externally. It’s also the best way of delivering better, faster cheaper results, which technology helps enable," said David Jones, founder, You & Mr. Jones. 

"They’re seeing that if you get this right you can deliver massive savings across the organization," he added. 

For smaller projects especially, it can be helpful to cut the bloat, he said. 

"For smaller projects, doing things in-house means that companies have 80 percent of people creating content and 20 percent managing the process, and if you look at the big agency world it tends to be the reverse," he said, referencing the Pareto principle which states that 20 percent of a group will produce 80 percent of the activity.

Still, Jones conceded that for larger work an agency was still most likely the best option, something that Devin Nagy, director of technology and emerging platforms at Diageo, agreed with. 

"In-house folks are important for us, but our Game of Thrones tie-in was such a hugely successful program that other agency partners helped us get off the ground," Nagy said. 

"In-housing is not going away but that is not going to change the game completely."

According to Andrew McKechnie, SVP, chief creative officer, Verizon, one overlooked aspect of the dynamic between in-house and agency work is the ability for brands to control their own identity. 

"At one point, Verizon as a brand was just putting out junk all over the place, and when you have multiple agencies working on dot com that means you have five or six different art directors who all want to leave their mark on dot com and that is a very antiquated process," he said. 

"So a lot of it is how do you clean up and centralize capabilities so that you get consistency in how the brands combine their identity, voice, who we are, and who we represent."

He added: "Take a bit more control as a brand, don’t expect your agency partners to do that threading for you. Some are great at that, but to me, that’s the big shift, brands taking control of who we are and what our narrative is and making sure we have a stake in it."

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