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Agency vs In-house vs Freelancers: A Startup's Guide to Advertising Options Each company will need to identify what it is they need and match that with their budget. Quality and efficiency are the key

By Kazu Takiguchi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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More content means more competition. The average consumer encounters about 5,000 advertisements every day, meaning attention spans are harder to garner than ever before. Especially considering alongside the fact that organic reach on social media continues to decline, companies have no other choice but to contribute to even more on ad content and run campaigns. It is a vicious cycle where only the best ads win.

This makes deciding how to create your startup's adverts integral to consider. There are different methods with different price points — and each with its own pros and cons. The long-running debate of agency versus in-house still has no clear answer, and the right option is even more arguable; thanks to the addition of freelancers as an alternative. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of each, and how should advertisers go about deciding?

Quality at a Price

The very first advertising option that comes to mind when it is about a creative is an advertising agency. These third-party professionals are traditionally seen as experts of developing ad creatives with the high production value to market any and every kind of product.

Hiring an advertising agency equates to an expected level of quality — complete with video, motion graphics and 3D animation options. They understand the process and bring broad knowledge of what style works for any given industry.

On the flip side, however, agency's serve multiple clients at any given time, and this means the attention of their creative team is always split. Their understanding of what the brand or company stands for is limited to the guidelines they are provided with. While an agency has likely worked for a brand or company in any given industry, it is difficult to find an agency, which specialises in any specific vertical.

Furthermore, time should be a major consideration for those businesses who need ads and need them now. Agencies are notorious for their slow turnaround time, which is a result of outsourcing creatives and requiring multiple sign-offs from different layers of different businesses. Another detractor is price. Contracting an advertising agency is much more expensive than in-house creatives and freelancers, with the price per project charged by an agency easily running into tens of thousands.

On the Payroll

At the other end of the spectrum, companies may want to bring the production of their advertisements a little closer to home. Establishing an in-house or internal creative team equates to employees who know the brand and products best, saving the trouble of having to brief someone else on the project.

Teams who reside down the hall rather than over an email makes for campaign flexibility and efficiency. Communication is more seamless when workers are directly responsible for the progress — or lack thereof — of campaigns.

However, companies with in-house creatives may run into skills' shortage. This all depends on the budget and the various types of ad creatives, formats and platforms could mean that the team does not have all the necessary capabilities for production. Further, the finite time and resources of an internal team do not allow for the production of creatives at a large scale. This inadvertently puts a dampener on performance marketing campaigns.

Creative issues can also become a problem for in-house teams. Working on the same brand or product for months or even years has its downsides as employees can begin to feel disinterested or unmotivated by their output. The ad designs start to look and sound the same, losing effectiveness and target audience interest.

Project to Project Flexibility

Perhaps the previous options are still too expensive, or there are only sporadic projects which need advertising attention. This is where the freelancer comes to the fore: a borderless, flexible worker who is on-demand from job to job. However, they may not be the perfect solution either.

Similar to agencies, freelancers do not take the time to fully understand brand guidelines. Since they usually cost less, there is less of a motivation to invest time into incorporating according to brand guidelines. However, on the other hand, freelancers are more flexible and more likely to solely commit to your project.

Despite the traditional notion of freelancers being a cheaper option, costs can add up if ideas and feedback are not communicated properly. Fees for changes beyond the stated amount in initial agreements often cost twice as much. Further, if the freelancer is unable to grasp the brand's ideas properly, this may lead to more changes and more charges.

The truth is there is no perfect option. Further, regardless of which option is selected, startups need to make sure they also plan performance marketing efforts. Constantly spreading awareness of a brand is important when no one knows the company at all. Therefore, it is imperative that startups consider prioritising online ads and consistent fuelling of fresh creatives to engage users.

Each company will need to identify what it is they need and match that with their budget. Quality and efficiency are key, therefore marketers must find an option that suits them best. The important thing is that any decision about advertisement production is better than no decision at all. Companies are operating in a fiercely competitive online space and one which requires an unmatched and exciting marketing approach. This can come from an agency, in-house team or freelancer — and it is up to startups to find the option that works best for them and their brand.

Kazu Takiguchi

CEO-founder, Creadits


Kazu is founder and CEO of Creadits, a single global marketplace for advertising talent, using a unified currency--Creadits. Creadits are used globally to acquire anything required to start advertising - graphic design, video shoots, writing, campaign management, training, even data.  

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