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Principal Partnership Agencies (“PPAs”)

In-house creative services groups have a spectrum of agency relationships with AORs (agencies of record), Creative and Design Production studios, even outsourcing and offshoring companies. Setting aside the high-end agencies, developing a strategy for supporting specific scopes of work through dedicated PPAs is an evolutionary step for in-house creative teams. These partners can be used to:

  • Support peak periods
  • Provide dedicated support for quick-turn work
  • Provide specific services that the in-house team has decided not to develop or take on (e.g., PowerPoint or app development)


Partnering with outside experts and embracing the possibilities these relationships can provide results in a dynamic business environment, “integrated” creative excellence, career development for your team and efficient delivery for your internal clients.

In our 2015 In-House Creative Services Industry Report, 70% of in-house creative services leaders indicated that their teams partner with external agencies, and 29% with offshore/offsite creative and production services providers. Most often groups with these relationships tend to be the more mature and stable groups. The larger the team the more likely they are to partner with external agencies; point-in-case, 85% of departments with more than 30 team members partner with external agencies, and 48% with offshore/offsite creative and production services providers.

So what is a Principal Partnership Agency?
It is an agency designated to serve as an extension of the creative services team, managed by the in-house creative services group. A PPA provides fully dedicated resources to the lines of business across all disciplines with your company’s in-depth institutional knowledge and are required to explicitly meet the company’s brand and product guidelines. Something that most agencies may claim to provide, but most often miss the mark on.

Why a PPA?
Principal partnership agencies provide a short-term solution and added support without increasing headcount, financial investment and much risk. Benefits of a PPA include:

  • Diversified capabilities
  • Creative infusion
  • Subject matter expertise
  • Resource augmentation


It is not uncommon to see a PPA become a longer-term partnership with evolving and changes in the scope of work they support.

When to engage a PPA?
This model is best suited for start-up groups, small-sized teams or groups in a growth phase. Groups that have a vision and plan for their future state but are faced with limited resources, narrow service offerings/capabilities and—most importantly—a need to validate the model. Most often as in-house groups start to grow and mature, they begin to absorb more and more of the PPAs work and ultimately greatly reduce their reliance on the PPA. That’s not to say that the PPA completely goes away, there is the opportunity to continue to leverage the partnership and clearly redefined roles, responsibilities and core competencies as needed. That said, it also can work in the reverse. The in-house team may wish to focus their growth in the Tier 1 and Tier 2 space and divest Tier 3 work to a PPA as part of their maturation strategy. This could allow the in-house agency not to grow in headcount but to grow in services.

Considerations
A PPA is usually selected amongst the various third-party agencies currently engaged with the in-house creative services team and/or marketing. One of these agencies would already have greater understanding of the company’s institutional knowledge, brand and product guidelines.

PPAs may choose to engage other third parties to produce work, but are ultimately responsible to ensure each deliverable meets the brand and product guidelines.  This should be clearly defined and regularly reinforced. In addition there should be full transparency of any supplementary outsourced tactical agencies and vendors used by the PPA.

As a true extension of your in-house team, consistent standardized operations, workflow processes and quality assurance are critical success factors. The PPA should be integrated with your team’s overall operational processes and technology for a seamless operation.

Wondering if a model like this is right for you? Contact us for more information and to find out how we can help.


Cindy Ponce

As Cella’s Creative Services Practice Lead, Cindy Ponce is the lead author of the In-House Creative Industry Report. In addition, she consults with Fortune 1000 clients whose in-house teams span from small and mid-sized groups to large and global service providers. Cindy’s management competencies lie in building and managing internal agency model organizations globally and effectively managing cross-functional teams worldwide. She’s known for her passion and tenacity in delivering optimal solutions with exceptional service and quality work using proven methodologies. Prior to joining Cella, Cindy built and led an international team of 65+, servicing more than 40 countries. During her tenure, she spearheaded increased service offerings to include content development and interactive capabilities.

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