Can you Outsource Creativity?

Creativity sits at the core of what any agency seeks to deliver to its customers. Ideas, iteration and delivery sit at the heart of agency life. Indeed agency creativity is at the top of client requirements according to research by Digital Society SODA. Success, of course, is typically judged on execution and the consequent outcome of any campaign. If agencies can’t deliver quality to schedule, they’ll likely face challenges in the way things turn out.

But creativity can be one of the most difficult areas to budget and resource for. Hiring creative staff is itself a significant challenge, and getting the balance right between ideas and delivery is critical. Many might think that, in an environment where delivery is everything, outsourcing is not the obvious means to improve service performance. However, in the right situation, and correctly planned, a traditional creative agency model supported by outsourcing help will reduce the risks of execution, deliver strong return on investment (ROI) and therefore more effective results.

The core benefit of outsourcing creativity is that it can help to improve scalability and increase agency capacity to meet targets in little to no time at all. Moment marketing has increased the need for rapid scalability as brands seek to engage and hijack news stories, consumer trends and events such as sporting spectacles. Internally, agencies can focus on their core skills, reliant on a quality outsourcing partner to deliver support.

A core challenge all agencies have is ensuring their more experienced and expensive staff are delivering the most value, and not completing simple day to day or administrative tasks. Consequently, in a model where creative output is shared between in-house experts and an outsourcing provider, revenue and productivity can be maximised for all.

One area I’ve witnessed considerable benefits from outsourcing is in applying consistent creative messaging through different media. A typical creative agency often simply doesn’t have the breadth of skills available at the necessary scale and availability to manage multi-platform campaigns.

The traditional claim from those opposed to outsourcing is that it is low quality, low output and cheap. This view, often based on out of date and second-hand experiences of outsourcing is however highly simplistic. By engaging the right partner, agencies can retain full control and clearly trace their ROI.

If you look at outsourcing another way, brands are already outsourcing work to agencies. Those therefore opposed to an element of outsourcing in order to improve delivery are almost questioning their own business models. It could even be viewed as almost hypocritical to oppose outsourcing from an agency perspective. With the right partner, trust can be developed and risk removed.

In looking for an appropriate outsourcing partner, there are a number of areas to look for – particularly ROI. Agreeing input, output and results from the outset is of critical importance. Secondly, if you’re already carrying out work you plan to transfer, a clear Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) procedure should be agreed. Ultimately this should be as transparent as possible, providing all sides with insight into delivery success and results in order to ensure all are fully optimised.

Communication is equally key, so evidence of a quality approach to client servicing is very important to look at. If your chosen outsource partner is abroad or a long distance from where you are, how do you plan to maintain contact? What is your review process? Knowing how to effectively brief an outside party where agency idioms and approaches are not always clear is essential. A system where work is just sent over email for example simply won’t work. Processes and solutions should be in place.

Ultimately outsourcing creative is possible and can deliver significant returns. There is an element of risk, but assuming all correct due diligence is carried out, output fully agreed and a strong track record is provided, it is no more risky than a client employing an agency – if anything it is less as the agency retains control. Outsourcing has the potential to transform how creative agencies work for the better, improving output and efficiency, leaders just have to take that initial step.