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It’s time for change: The future of marketing is flexible

Guides & Inspiration • Written by Chloe Lane, Managing Director - Global Client Solutions

The most significant lesson I’ve learned over the past decade in the marketing industry, is that change is the only constant.

With major advancements in technology, escalating consumer demands, and fierce competition, the pace of change is not just steady – it’s accelerating. According to PWC’s 26th Annual Global CEO Survey, an overwhelming 72% of CEOs predict more change in the next three years than in the past 50.

Although this fast pace of change might seem disruptive, I believe it opens up massive potential for marketers, particularly if they embrace today’s collaboration age. With the right strategy, those willing to evolve are well-positioned to convert disruptions into opportunities, even advancements. 

The in-housing vs. outsourcing debate

In the marketing industry, a longstanding debate persists: is it better to keep creative and production needs in-house or to outsource them? This debate is not just topical, it’s embedded into the fabric of the industry’s history. Over my 20-plus-year career as a business growth and transformation leader, I’ve not only observed but actively shaped the in-house vs. outsourcing debate, designing and implementing strategies from both client and agency sides of the fence.

Central to the in-housing vs. outsourcing debate are four key considerations that have shaped marketing strategies:

  1. Creative control: Maintaining a consistent and authentic brand message.
  2. Access to specialised talent: Ensuring the availability of skilled creatives across different capabilities to drive marketing success.
  3. Cost-efficiency: Balancing high-quality output with budget constraints.
  4. Scalability: The ability to quickly adjust the scale of operations to meet changing market demands.

In response to these considerations, I have observed and engaged in various strategic trends, including:

  • Moving brand platforms in-house
  • Establishing internal agencies
  • Decoupling of creative and production
  • Experimenting with onsite models and offshoring

These trends represent the industry’s ongoing effort to find the most effective balance between in-house and outsourced marketing strategies.

I’ve seen the benefits and drawbacks of all of these strategies. From my perspective, in-house solutions often provide better brand alignment and cost savings, while outsourcing can bring in fresh perspectives and specialised expertise that are sometimes scarce in-house.

Yet, despite a recent trend towards in-housing, with 82% of businesses now operating in-house teams (ANA – The continued rise of the in-house agency 2023), the industry still seeks a long-term, sustainable solution. One that stops the back-and-forth of in-housing and outsourcing, and keeps businesses and brands future-proofed.

Drawing from years of experience, I’ve realised something important: the traditional approaches used for in-housing or outsourcing aren’t enough anymore. What we really need to change the game is to bring more flexibility into how we handle our marketing. Being able to quickly adapt to new situations is what’s going to help us keep up with the fast-changing market.

Limitations of current approaches

Recognising the need for more flexibility in our marketing structures, prompts the question: What’s currently getting in the way?

Dominance of fixed resourcing:

  • In-house teams are predominantly full-time staff, with 82% of resources typically fixed according to the ANA, which restricts quick adjustments and strategic pivots.
  • This leads to reduced operational agility, causing missed opportunities and slower responses compared to agile competitors.
  • Fixed resources hinder the ability to scale operations effectively, resulting in either underutilisation in low-demand periods or overstretching during high-demand times.
  • Creative limitations arise due to a lack of diverse perspectives, impacting innovative content development.
  • The model often implies consistent costs, leading to economic inefficiency, especially in fluctuating market conditions.

Integrating freelancers:

Efforts to increase flexibility by integrating freelancers brings challenges such as aligning with the brand’s vision and logistical complexities. The IHALC IHA Benchmarking Survey 2023 indicates that 57% of internal agencies have difficulty or great difficulty in accessing freelance talent when needed. 

External agency limitations:

Agencies, sought for their potential flexibility, face similar constraints due to reliance on fixed resources, resulting in inflexible project scopes, fees, and long-term commitments. This limits their ability to adapt strategies quickly to dynamic market demands.

To address these challenges, marketers need to balance the stability of fixed resources with the innovation offered by flexible resources. Finding the right mix is crucial to building a marketing structure that embraces change and turns it into a competitive advantage.

The power of flexibility

The pursuit of flexibility is not just about keeping pace with change. It’s about unleashing creative potential and effectively responding to market demands. Today, where impactful, quality content is king (not just more for less), meeting evolving consumer expectations becomes everything. In-house agencies recognise this – according to the IHALC IHA Benchmarking Survey 2023, raising the standard of their creative work is their number one priority.

To reach levels of creative excellence, diversity in skills and perspectives is crucial – a feature often missing in fixed team structures. Flexibility in resourcing through on-demand creative and production solutions opens doors to a wider pool of talent and ideas, essential for crafting distinctive content that stands out in a crowded market and resonates with niche audiences.

In today’s dynamic market, technology acts as a key driver for flexibility, mirroring transformative collaborations seen in industries like finance and healthcare. These technology-enabled platforms have the power to reshape marketing, enhancing creativity while ensuring efficiency.

This approach echoes successful strategies from other sectors. It not only caters to the needs for rapid scaling and maintaining creative control but also promotes operational efficiency, and provides access to diverse talent and fresh ideas, ultimately improving effectiveness and marking a new era in marketing that values both diversity and agility.

A call to action

We stand at a pivotal moment in marketing. As we look to a future where change is the only constant, our ability to adapt and innovate will be crucial to our ongoing success. 

With a new year fast approaching, it feels timely to reconsider your marketing structure in anticipation of more market shifts. What strategy do you have in place to increase your levels of flexibility in  2024 and beyond?

About Chloe Lane

Chloe Lane, Managing Director of Global Client Solutions at Genero, has over 20 years of expertise in marketing and business growth transformation in both the UK and Australia.  With stints at TBWA, JWT, The Engine Group, Woolworths and a recent post of four years as Chief Operating Officer at Hogarth Australia, she’s known for her strategic vision in evolving marketing practices, driving innovation and flexibility within the industry and conceptualising and implementing in-house/ outsourced strategies for enterprise brands.

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