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Pros and Cons

Reprinted from News-To-Use, Vol.6, No.2.
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The computer has made it possible for many companies who might not otherwise do so to contemplate taking their marketing communications function in-house. Is it a wise decision? Here are some of the arguments, pro and con.

Nobody knows more about my products (or my customers) than I do- certainly not some ad agency with clients in a lot of different industries.

Knowledge of the product and market is important, certainly, but any agency worth its salt has learned the pertinent aspects of new products and markets dozens of times in the past. Regardless of the product being advertised, all humans respond in more or less the same way to sales information. Therefore, the really important knowledge to possess is how to inform, influence, persuade and motivate people in general- knowledge good agency people have acquired through long years in the marketing trenches.

Advertising is expensive- it's one of my biggest ongoing costs. If I can save a few bucks on the ad production or get a better price on my brochures, that's all money that goes straight to the bottom line.

In marketing communications services, as in any aspect of life, you generally get what you pay for. You can write it yourself, hire a cheap art director and buy lower-quality printing, but the enjoyment of the cost savings will be short-lived, while the impression your sales materials make on your customers may last a very long time.

How hard can advertising be? I read a lot of ads in my industry and my secretary already knows how to use one of those page layout software programs. And even if she didn't, how much could it cost to hire someone to work down the hall? I bet I could hire a writer- a part-timer anyway- who would concentrate on my business done for about what I would pay an agency.

If you've never tried to create advertising, you may think it's easy; those of us who do it for a living know it is not. The best and most skilled people in advertising and PR have built whole careers on their ability to create effective communications. Generally, these people want to work for an agency rather than an in-house operation, because they enjoy the greater variety and opportunity to practice their craft. This is not to say you can't hire someone to do your communications work, merely that talent and experience can be hard to find and/or expensive.

If I had someone working for me, I wouldn't get "sold" all the time; they would do what I want them to do because I pay their salary. I'd have control like you can never get with an outside vendor.

This is undeniable, but is it desirable? One big advantage an agency offers is objectivity- a way of looking at marketing and communications problems and solutions which may be impossible for you and others inside your company to see.

The "selling" agencies do with their clients is usually an attempt to help them see that objective viewpoint. Besides, speaking for ourselves at least, we never "sell" anything to clients- we make recommendations based on our experience, which our clients are free to follow or ignore.

Done properly, in-house marketing communications departments require a significant commitment from management in time and energy. And when you factor in all the expenses, there are rarely any significant savings over an outside agency. Because the success of an in-house operation is so dependent on maintaining the commitment in terms of people and equipment, companies who take their marketing communications in-house often fold the operation and go outside again within two or three years.

We'll admit, we're biased. But we hire a mechanic to work on our car because we know we don't know anything about auto mechanics. And if we ran a company, we'd hire a marketing communications agency for the same reason.

Ripley-Woodbury Marketing Communications
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