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Working With Outside Agencies: Opportunities to Create Value (Part 2)

Working With Outside Agencies: Opportunities to Create Value (Part 2)

Read Partnering with Agencies: Opportunities to Create Value (Part 1)

Clearly defining and then redefining your current and desired future role in partnering with outside creative partners is the first step in establishing you and your team as valuable strategic partners with your clients and company. There are basically three levels of engagement and partnership with external resources (not including complete disengagement):

  • Consultant
  • Liaison
  • Leader

  • The first and most minimal level of participation in the corporate/agency dynamic is that of consultant. In this scenario, you have no direct interaction with the vendor. You do, however, advise the client, which in this case can also be Procurement, on best business practices when dealing with an outside creative entity. The types of insights you might provide include clarification of provided services and deliverables, acceptable billing rates and rate structures, how to craft effective creative briefs and provide useful creative direction, how to offer clear feedback, and the use of SLAs and SOWs to establish expectations with creative services vendors.

    Acting as a liaison between your internal clients and ad agencies, design firms and production houses is the second and more involved level of engagement. Here, you and your team are actively engaged in managing the relationship between the vendor and the client, most commonly by being the conduit for communication between the two. Not only does this model better position you as a valued strategic partner, it also allows you to proactively provide the vendor direction that the client may not have considered and to assist more actively in the review and feedback stages of an assignment. You’ll also be able to better assess the value a particular vendor truly providing to your clients and organization, and you’ll be empowered to better advise on future assignments.

    The final level of engagement in partnering with outside creative resources puts you squarely in the driver’s seat as the party that subcontracts with a vendor with minimal participation by your client. This model has the client coming to you as the turnkey provider of any and all services and deliverables associated with a particular assignment. Once you get the project you have complete autonomy in determining which, if any, external creative services providers you’ll be working with, how you’ll be engaging them and to what degree. If managed properly, this type of involvement can be the most beneficial to all parties. The client knows her and the company’s interests are being managed by an expert, you are afforded the opportunity to do what you do best and find the most rewarding, and the vendor receives direction and feedback that best sets them up for successful execution on the services they’re being tasked with providing.

    Your staffing structure is dependent on which of these models or combination of models your team practices. Some in-house teams provide no hands-on services and are solely comprised of creatives who manage external creative resources for their companies. Others are partnering with agencies and firms by dividing up and taking on different phases of an assignment. Regardless of what type of model best suits your team and company, it is essential that you actively and proactively identify and establish you and your team in the role best suited to your goals.


Andy Epstein

Andy Epstein is an industry thought leader in the field of in-house creative. He currently serves as the Director of Studio Operations for Cella Solutions where he has oversight of the managed in-house agencies run by Cella. Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative,” a book on in-house design in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, the former Programming Director for the InHOWse Managers Conference, and a key member of Cella’s professional development team. Andy is focused on empowering in-house teams to raise their stature in the design and business communities.

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