HINT: The answer ISN’T “eenie, meenie, miney, moe.”

It seems like an easy question. Until you try to answer it.

Maybe you think it’s about creativity. But what about experience? Results? What about cost?

It’s okay if you don’t know. This isn’t a pop quiz. In fact, this is just PART ONE (which means there’s a LOT to cover).

In truth, you have to consider a lot to determine what advertising agency is the right fit for your business. So here’s our handy-dandy (and completely unbiased) guide to choosing an ad agency, PART, THE FIRST:

Okay, so maybe “outhouse” isn’t the correct term. Unless you pick a crappy ad agency, that is. But seriously, the first consideration a business should have is whether they want to bring their advertising and marketing services into their business.

On the plus side, an in-house ad agency is totally dedicated to your brand, and can spend all of its time promoting it. Imagine what you could do with a cadre of creative slaves toiling endlessly to further your business. This alone is benefit enough for many businesses considering this option. However, an in-house ad agency also comes with some serious disadvantages.

For example, advertising is probably NOT what your business does best. This means that in order to create an in-house agency, you’ll have to learn how to, first. And then you’ll have to staff it with experienced, qualified professionals. So, not only will you have to manage, or find someone to manage your in-house agency, you’ll also have to find the right mix of graphic designers, copywriters, digital media specialists, and web developers to staff it. That’s a lot of staff to add to any payroll. And then you’ll have to keep them busy, constantly, in order to justify the expense. So you can see why most businesses only go for this option after they reach a certain scale.

However, even with large enterprises, there is another, more sinister downside to bringing an ad or marketing agency in-house. Let’s just call it “idea-shrink.” Does that sound diabolical and terror-inducing? Good.

The idea behind “idea-shrink” is actually pretty simple. Your in-house ad agency is likely to focus only upon a single brand or industry vertical. That means that your creative staff is completely tuned to your current market, and to your competitors. As a result, your in-house agency begins only thinking inside that box. Further, that creative staff reports directly to those within the corporate hierarchy. So creative staffers are more likely to play it safe with conservative suggestions that maintain the status quo. Thus, companies scrap bold, attention-getting ideas and methods in favor of industry-standard practices.

And it’s not just creative concepts, either. Especially today, when new marketing methodologies are seemingly born every day, it’s not hard to see how an in-house agency can become set in its own ways with media channels and emerging technologies.

You’ve seen this before, mostly in large, risk-averse industries like healthcare, finance, and computer software. These industries are not known for bold, innovative advertising. In fact, think of a product manufacturer or service provider with dull, middle-of-the-road creative, and you’ll likely discover that it comes from an in-house agency.  

Of course, this doesn’t mean that an in-house advertising agency is a bad thing. It’s really just how you use it. For example, it’s not uncommon for a business with an in-house ad agency to also work with an outside advertising agency. This arrangement gives businesses the best of both worlds. The outside agency can supply fresh creative and consulting, leading the brand in bold new directions. Meanwhile, the in-house agency can keep production and day-to-day marketing tasks tightly aligned to operational needs.

A lot of businesses attempt to mix both in-house and outside advertising agencies by bringing in only digital media. By hiring a digital marketing specialist, businesses believe they can cut out the cost of maintaining a full in-house ad agency, and still get results. However, this approach really only makes sense if the company is only marketing and selling online. That’s because digital marketers work with data. It’s rare that data marketers are adept at the graphics needed for social media marketing, creative emails, and display ads.

However, there is one digital item that virtually every company should bring in-house: Social media. Whether you hire a specialist, or just task existing staff with maintaining your social channels, in-house is easily best. Social media feeds like Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn need to be able to respond rapidly to engage your audience.

So that answers the burning questions you didn’t know you had about bringing your advertising agency in-house. Next time, we’re gonna talk about the differences between ad agencies, and what to look out for. So hold your horses.

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