Onsite, offsite or in-house? The new era of agency / client relationships.

How organisations are working with agencies has changed dramatically. It’s one of the reasons we started CreateFuture - to better meet the needs of senior marketers because we felt that agencies or consultancies weren’t.

A number of different models have emerged:

  • Full outsourcing - the traditional way

  • In-sourcing - bringing agency staff into your business - this could be integrated or a dedicated team / agency

  • In-house - the client’s staff

  • Hybrid - a mix of the models above

There has been a definite swing to in-house / insourcing, with companies like Oliver and Wunderman Inside leading the charge. At CreateFuture we believe in working onsite, alongside our clients - the hybrid model.

Why this trend? What are the benefits?  

A study by ISBA showed that 86% of CMOs felt that an onsite model gave greater agility and speed (compared with 23% when working with external agencies).

Other benefits included:

  • Better collaboration

  • Operational control

  • Transparency

  • Lower Cost

Which fits with our principles of fun, fast and collaborative!

Whatever model you go with has to reflect the culture of your business. Clients also need to be honest about what they’re ready for. We’ve had clients who have said they want to work in a fun, fast and collaborative way, but they simply couldn’t - for cultural reasons (a lack of creative confidence for example) or logistical (literally not being able to get the right people in the right places to collaborate).

It also heavily depends on the relationship that the client and agency has. Bringing your agency to work alongside you might bring cost efficiencies - but it’s not going to work if you’re not working in harmony.

Another issues is recruitment and retention. Often talent is attracted to the buzz and glamour of agency life, the opportunity to work with big brands and gain mentoring from industry heavyweights. It’s a harder sell if you’re trying to attract people to join an in-house financial services team which often results in the need to pay significantly higher salaries and day rates (which causes its own problems which I’ll not get started on here!).

And for agencies who are supporting onsite teams, putting their people into a client for months at a time isn’t what staff signed up for. They feel excluded, and good people leave. Alternatively agencies end up resourcing with their ‘B-team’ and therefore clients lose out.

I’m sure there’s a few contentious points in here but ones that need discussed as the new era of agency / client relationships dawns.


Jessica Mullen