Why hiring a creative agency is better than having an in-house creative (team)

Almost as complicated as finding the right design solution is the process of finding the right kind of creativity for the job. An in-house designer or team may be knowledgeable but lack out-of-the-box thinking. An agency may have an army of resources but may be over-the-top expensive.
Below are some titles that outlines the pros and cons of working with each group and which projects may be best suited for each one.

The In-House Creative (Team)
If you have an in-house creative (team), they are probably your most significant asset for a quick turnaround of marketing materials, website updates and presentation graphics. You might also have one or more “product people” on staff who specialise in user experience design, visual design, product management or all of the above. These folks are (hopefully) use or customer experts and thoroughly understand both the company’s business and user goals.

Good in-house product teams have accumulated countless hours of studying the customer/user’s needs, behaviours, and attitudes of the customer/user to provide the best experience for them. They are an investment in time and education with the result that they know the product inch for inch just as a sailor alone out at sea knows his vessel. Companies like in-house design teams or individuals because they are product masters and will probably stick around for a few years.

But like everything, in-house teams don’t come trouble-free. In-house creative (team) and individuals can become stale and dispassionate, especially if office politics get them down. Motivation is typically the hardest for staff designers who, over time, can lose inspiration and their ability to think outside of the box. One person described it as eating at the same restaurant every day. Coming to the same job and challenges every day can eventually lead to boredom and indifference.

It’s also not uncommon for employees (designers included) to be too close to a project for an extended amount of time and lose sight of what’s most important. Being too close to something, they are blind to other possibilities and may seek opinions from the outside. Another common issue for having an in-house team is that companies can find themselves with delays in receiving the necessary marketing material depending on the amount of in-house work. This brings us to the last issue, cost. This can be from salaries to equipment costs, licence fees, and other resources costs, which can be more than an individual product income at the end of the year. This is why most companies in Mauritius will use outdated software, go for free resources, old equipment and lastly, young and cheap creatives. This lack of experience can make companies spend thousands of rupees to have brand firms remind them what they do for a living. Seeking fresh eyes is one of the biggest reasons companies invest in outside design help.

The Creative Agency
Companies hire design agencies above all because they are perceived as having almost magical powers. Agencies are responsible for memorable ad campaigns, taglines that stick, saliva-inducing graphics, jaw-dropping interaction, and mostly, making many techies and sales guys look “cool”.

Creative agencies know human emotion, how to manipulate it and drive it to bring sales. They know that it’s not about how it looks or works at the end of the day but how it “feels”. Why? Because human beings are wired for emotion, and eliciting a good feeling is the surest route to winning the mind and heart of every user and customer.

Successful creative agencies typically have years of experience, have people who specialise in every aspect of the design process and are driven not only by profits but by projects that will enhance their portfolio and win them awards. They can bring a new sense of passion to a project, come up with whacky/never-done-before ideas and help drive a company toward innovation. While not being immediate experts of your product, they are quick to learn and may even have the tools and encourage to dig deeper than your staff employees.

However, design agencies are viewed as expensive, especially compared to an art school graduate willing to do the same logo for 1/10 of the cost. Like any business, they have overhead costs to cover and typically have several specialists involved in one project. But that can be debatable as most experienced creative agencies offer more of an overall fixed cost than hourly rates.

Creative agencies also usually require (not always) a lengthy “discovery phase” that enables them to get up to speed with the business and user goals. While this is necessary to design what’s suitable for the company and customer, this sometimes frustrates stakeholders who see no immediate return on their investment.

Project Examples
There are specific projects and situations where one kind of designer or team is a better fit than the other with all the pros and cons. Below is an attempt to show the best match-ups.

*I have less than Rs10,000 to spend on designing a new website for my company.*
If that’s your absolute limit, your best bet is getting an in-house creative and planning on giving them a lot of direction.

* We’d like to build a prototype to show investors.*
A creative agency is an excellent choice for this kind of project, especially if you find someone who has experience working with startups. They should recommend a lean process that doesn’t burn through loads of cash and provide a method that validates customer interest.

*We need a new corporate identity.*
Design agencies are typically experts at this sort of thing and will probably have numerous portfolio examples.

*We need someone to carefully and continuously monitor the success of our product.*
In-house, although an agency can yield better results.

*We think the product could use some UI work.*
“We think” means you’re not sure and need an expert. A creative agency will help determine what problems you may have.

*We have a conference coming up and need extra graphics help.*
Call up your next creative agency.

* We’ve had our heads down on this product too long and can’t see what needs to be done.*
A design agency or consultant will bring clarity.

* It’s Tuesday, and I need this done by Friday, and my in-house creative (team) are already overwhelmed with work.*
Tough situation. Most agencies will politely decline without being able to schedule weeks in advance. However, some agencies will be able to get the work done upon an agreeable rush fee.

*I have the design direction; I just need someone to flesh out the rest.*
Try in-house.

*We need an eye-popping microsite to promote a new product.*
Design agencies are masters at this sort of thing.

Overall if you seek results and time is of the essence, a creative agency would be the ideal solution for any company size. They provide alongside the marketing material, their years of experience and after-sales consultation.

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