Okay – I admit it. I may be a wee bit biased when writing on the subject of the relative advantages and disadvantages of using an in-house ad agency versus outsourcing to a marketing communications agency. You probably already suspected the bias because you’re reading this on a marketing communications’ agency blog. I do believe that outsourcing to an agency provides more advantages than disadvantages based on my own experiences and discussions with companies and clients over the last 20-plus years.
Despite that belief, there are always exceptions and hybrids between in-house and outsourced communications resources. What we’ve seen work best is when a company has strong marketing leadership within the organization combined with a marketing communications agency it trusts. The internal marketing leader should have a strong understanding of the company’s business and marketing objectives, serving as a driving force in developing marketing strategies that align with the company’s goals. This person should communicate these things to the agency frequently, especially as business goals or executive leadership within the organization shifts. The agency and internal marketing staff then work in tandem on the development and execution of programs to reach those goals.
An outside marketing communications agency provides advantages that just can’t be replicated in-house.
An outside perspective and objectivity. One of the most important, if not THE most important, advantages an outside agency has over in-house staff is objectivity. The agency’s view is not overly colored by internal discussions, politics, views, etc. Emotions and personalities play less of a role in agency recommendations. The most effective work comes not from a focus on how the company views its products and services but how the customer views them. A good outside agency should always be focused on the buyer and not be distracted by other motivations that are impossible to escape in an internal role. Because agencies are not employees, they’re not bound by the same limitations as employees. An outside agency helps you avoid getting tunnel vision from focusing only on your company or industry.
By now, you’ve probably seen the TV spot for Squarespace, which promises “Better websites for all.” Or maybe you’ve heard of Wix, which claims to “make it simple for everyone to create a beautiful, professional Web presence.” No doubt you know WordPress, which, for years, has been the go-to blogging platform-turned-world-leading content management system (CMS). These Web-building tools and others like them have really come into their own over the past couple of years, giving all people the ability to create powerful, advanced and aesthetically awesome websites without a lot of design or development experience. A few years ago, I might’ve turned my nose up at these template-based, semi-customizable websites, but not any longer.
From a design/development perspective, most templates are actually really good these days, and some are outright stunning. Not long ago, templates were created by less talented designers and built by developers with limited skills. But today’s Web-building tools help average Joes launch clean and sophisticated websites with large-format imagery. They’re coded in HTML5 for some of the most advanced functionality available, and many are responsive so they display and function beautifully on devices of all sizes. What’s not to like?
I want to personally apologize for what you’re about to witness. You see, I had this idea along with access to a recording studio, several cameras and video editing equipment. I dreamed up a name for it — “M/C/C Briefs” — and enlisted help from the creative team with logo and page design for the dern thing. And for what? To publicly mock my peers as they hum the lyrics to popular songs? And set the stage for future agency-wide humiliation in the form of marketing entertainment? Who the heck do I think I am? Well I’m the third hum enthusiast featured in this video. Like I said, I apologize. Now enjoy.
What’s next for the M/C/C Briefs? I don’t know. Honestly. No one has told me anything. We’re flying by the seat of our Underoos over here. I guess that’s the beauty of the Briefs. If Hum’s the Word works, let us know and we’ll keep the good times rolling. If it doesn’t, I take a cold shower, die a little inside and move on. And if you have an idea for something awesome you want to see, send us a note. Maybe we can give it a shot. Or a scene. Or a full-fledged motion picture.
I was participating in a bicycle rally a while back, and near the end of the ride I struck up a conversation with another cyclist. Not knowing each other prior to the ride, we small-talked and eventually got to our jobs. When I shared that I was in advertising account management, it went something like this:
Him: So, you’re in sales?
Me: No. Well, kind of. I mean, we sell every day. Our minds, our creative talents and brainpower.
He kindly nodded with slight confusion on his face, and as we rode on, I thought to myself that I need a better way to describe what I do.
If you’re in advertising or know someone in advertising, perhaps you’ve shared a similar experience. Last month, Meghan McDonnell, a senior vice president at an agency search and consulting firm contributed an article to Advertising Age titled “Have we stopped taking account management seriously again?” McDonnell shared that her clients believe account management is one of the most important investments an agency can make, and she went on to define the role of account managers with three criteria – leadership, strategy and relationships. This article was an “Ah ha!” moment. I’ve always believed in these criteria and understood how critical they are to effective account management but never thought to break it down this way when describing account service to someone. Let’s take a look.
When it comes to how human’s make decisions, modern science has it all wrong. Textbooks will have you believe that decision-making happens in a small part of the brain known as the lateral habenula, which they claim performs a cost-benefit analysis on all of life’s everyday events. In fact, we at M/C/C have learned that decisions are made in an entirely different part of the human anatomy. This organ is called the breart.
The breart is one-half heart and one-half brain, fused together as one. At M/C/C, our specialists in human decision-making identified the breart a few years ago in a study to determine the best way to market our clients’ products to their customers. Essentially, what we’ve learned is that the breart is best affected by a combination of rational, thoughtful information and entertaining, compelling stories. Since discovering this organ and its role in consumer behavior, we’ve influenced the brearts of our audiences like never before, using informative content to stimulate the brain and creative stories to move the heart.
Because the physiological workings of the breart can be dry and complex and entirely fictional to some people, we’ve produced a simple video to help introduce this new scientific principle. We’re confident that, once you open your mind to the breart, you’ll discover entirely new ways to influence your customers, too.
We all know that the key to successful relationships is effective, interactive communications. This is very true for marketing communications agencies and their clients.
Strive for this relationship. Photo by Orphan Jones, CC-BY-2.0
It’s like a marriage, or partnership, where the agency becomes an extension of the client’s marketing department and is viewed as part of their team as opposed to a vendor or supplier. In order for a relationship like this to develop, both parties need to share similar values and ethics while trusting and enjoying the interactions among the individuals from each organization. It is this type of chemistry that allows long-standing relationships to grow and flourish.
We can come up with creative ideas to generate results for your marketing communications programs but there are better ways to maximize the ROI in your agency. Getting high-level involvement from the CEO level down involved and actively participating in the long-term brand strategy provides your agency team the support and insight that informs successful programs. Creative ideas will come from your company and your agency and they need to be nurtured. This type of collaboration allows the agency to truly understand your company’s unique value so it is reflected in the agency’s creative ideas and program recommendations for a successful marketing communications program.
Wow-o-wow! It was Sept. 6, 1986, when I decided to start this full service marketing communications agency in Dallas. Our services at that time included advertising and creative, public relations, account planning, research, and media planning and buying.
Advertising was predominantly print with a few radio and broadcast commercials included. There was a tremendous amount of sales promotion activity which incorporated impressive four- and five-color brochures that were as large as 12 pages, pocket folders, tons of data/product sheets as well as high-profile annual reports. Impressive direct mail pieces ranged from self-mailers to three-dimensional campaigns that included premium incentives. When we produced videos, they were very elaborate with a minimum time frame of four minutes or longer. Continue reading “Happy Birthday M/C/C” »
Visit M/C/C for the first time, and there’s a better-than-average chance your touring party will make its way toward the “House That YouTube Built.” You will wander by the Think Tank, make your way down the west hallway and journey through a few more doorways before reaching the magical dead end, filled with lights, cameras and plenty of action. Welcome to the M/C/C Video Production Suite. What most video suite guests don’t realize is had they made that journey just three years earlier, they would be visiting an electronic burial ground where kids used to play. Yep, M/C/C video production has come a long way. It all started back in 2010…
You had to look past the pile of beige CRT monitors. Block out the two 1980s IBM printers. The baby crib. The empty filing cabinets. The stacks of boxes containing client brochures from previous decades. Like these obscure objects, Todd Brashear and Phillip Barnhard stood still in the forgotten wasteland, hidden deep within M/C/C. No agency tour would come within breathing distance of this hollow place.
In a previous life, the office space was used as a creative think tank and a nursery for children of employees. Over the last decade, the 425 square feet had matured into a dumping ground for old electronics and furniture. A cathedral of crap. As Todd and Phillip examined the area, they literally waded through the possibilities of such a space. You could put a window here. What if we knocked down this wall? Maybe some red curtains here. Can this door be removed? . You see, M/C/C had advertising, public relations, marketing, internet marketing and social media on lockdown, but to market its video production capabilities, the agency wanted something unique. It needed a showpiece.
This year I was grateful to have my third visit to SXSW Interactive. As is always the case, my brain was bombarded with gobs of information and was inspired in the areas of Web design, development and beyond. Here are some highlights of my experience this year.
The first day started out with a presentation by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. That was a pretty great way to start out a conference built around the very thing for which this guy laid the foundation. It was fascinating to hear his vision for the future of Web, which amongst other things emphasizes that our democracy relies on the Internet being open.
Leap Motion is a start-up that came into the scene with a vengeance at SXSW this year. The technology senses movement in your hands without the use of a mouse or a keyboard. This product is set to come out in May of 2013 and is surprisingly affordable at the price point of $79.99. Here I am playing around with a demo model:
At M/C/C, we’re all about living the unexpected. For some of us that means taking a spring break road trip of sorts every March, caravanning southbound on I35 to meet up with a smallish number of people (roughly 30,000) in our state’s capital to watch films, listen to music and eat barbecue. Oh – and work! This is our job!
You may have seen us blogging aboutthis annual phenomenon before; but in case you haven’t, we’re talking about SXSW Interactive, one portion of Austin’s SXSW festival that has grown so widely attended and globally known that each time I hopped in an R&R Shuttle between sessions and the evening’s activities, I was always joined by a handful of international attendees, if I could even find an open shuttle because there are just so many people…
You get the picture! The other two parts of the SXSW festival, film and music, are easy to figure out what’s gone on at even if you weren’t able to attend. But with so many special skills falling under the interactive umbrella, most mainstream media outlets covering news such as which app was used most by the trendsetting techies (must download of 2013: Vine and Uber) and Grumpy Cat holding court, it can be hard for a marketer to latch on to some of the best, most inspirational ideas about their specific discipline that came out of the conference.
And, we missed you guys. That’s why, this year, we decided to make it easy. Without further adieu, welcome to SXSWi 2013, brought to you in the bold technicolor and limited character (because we know your time is precious) goodness of seven tweets.