Some of the advantages of decoupling include the following:
- Specialized Experience/Expertise. As mentioned in Part 2 of this series, one of the main reasons a specific component of a marketing campaign is decoupled is because there is a high degree of technical expertise required to complete these services as well as a large demand for the services. Production houses are solely dedicated to the production of assets; therefore, they have a great deal of experience in a particular category and have been able to develop best practices over the years for the services they deliver.
- Faster to Market. This benefit goes hand in hand with the former. A dedicated production team establishes best practices and process efficiencies from completing a number of projects within their service category. Process efficiencies translate to less time required to complete assignments and marketers are able to bring their campaigns to market more quickly than utilizing an agency without core competencies in the decoupled service category.
- Greater Transparency and Stronger Control. The costs tied to production services for a campaign can sometimes be difficult to calculate if managed by an agency that often needs to engage a third party to complete the assignment. Decoupling eliminates the need for agencies to engage third parties with marketers now having a direct relationship with the third party themselves. This direct relationship delivers greater visibility into the costs of producing a tactic. It is important to note this benefit cannot be fully realized without implementing the proper procedures, communication channels and analysis to track all marketing activities, managed by both the agency and those suppliers handling the decoupled assignments.
- Creative Freedom. Decoupling allows for greater flexibility in the generation of more in-house creative ideas that can be implemented without the involvement of a creative agency. Marketers with in-house marketing teams can develop their own creative concepts for a campaign and engage a production house for the execution.
- Asset Standardization. Agencies have varying methodologies when it comes to approaching a production assignment and can lead to inconsistencies across assets distributed through multiple marketing channels. By utilizing the same production house for the execution of all production activities, there is greater consistency in the appearance and flow of content across all marketing platforms.
- More Competitive Pricing. Typically, larger agencies have higher overhead costs when compared to smaller production shops and these overhead costs trickle down to every component of a campaign within the scope of work. By decoupling services to smaller shops, these overhead costs decrease and do not have as much of an impact on the cost of services. Also, as mentioned previously, decoupling leads to faster turnaround times for campaigns and less time and resources dedicated to production activities translates into lower costs.
The disadvantages of decoupling agency services include:
- Managing Multiple Relationships. Decoupling means taking a certain set of services away from one agency that you are currently working with and assigning them to another supplier. Engaging with multiple agency partners to produce a campaign means managing multiple relationships. A great deal of time and resources will have to be dedicated to monitoring and managing each relationship to make sure they are operating effectively.
- Ineffective Cross Agency Collaboration. Although creative and production take on different assignments, they must both operate under the same overarching marketing strategy. This means that both agencies will have to collaborate with one another in order to make sure that their activities are aligned. You may find these agencies not being able to work well together, competing against one another for a fair share of the budget.
- Communication Issues. By having multiple agencies dedicated to the deployment of a specific campaign or set of activities, the path of communication lengthens and becomes more complex. Marketers need to manage the communication process with all agencies effectively and consistently communicating the goals and strategies of the campaign. Similarly, agencies need to communicate with one another in order to convey their ideas and concepts to make sure they are properly executed and delivered on time.
There is no right or wrong answer to whether or not a marketer should decouple agency services. Advantages and disadvantages exist for both scenarios and it really comes down to the marketer's overall needs and internal resources. In-house agencies are becoming more and more popular as well, which blurs the lines even further. The decision to decouple depends on the culture and strategy of your organization, the resources that you have internally, and the latest trends in the market. If you are really struggling with determining if decoupling is the right strategy to employ for your organization/brand, it might help to look at the concept from a different angle. Below are disadvantages and advantages we wanted to clearly outline that call out the benefits and drawbacks of choosing not to decouple.
The benefits to utilizing one agency for all of your marketing needs include:
- Cohesion. Marketers are able to keep a consistent and cohesive message and brand identity across all marketing channels.
- Unified Strategy. Rather than each agency developing their own strategies for their respective tactics, there will be one overarching strategy dictating all marketing activities for the campaign.
- Strong Relationship. Utilizing one agency means only managing one relationship, which allows for a strong focus on developing a true partnership where your goals are well understood and eventually achieved.
- Growth Opportunity. Having a strong agency relationship where both parties have a familiarity and understanding of the others goals and culture means there is a greater opportunity for future successful engagements.
The drawbacks of utilizing one agency for all of your marketing needs include:
- Increased Risk. There is a great deal of risk associated with using one agency for all your marketing needs. If some of your agency's team members decide to pursue other opportunities, you may find yourself not pleased with their replacements and the relationship can suffer as a result. Therefore, with all of your eggs in one basket, you may eventually realize you rely too heavily on a single agency.
- Difficult Transition (if the relationship does not work out). The transition of all marketing assignments from one agency to another can be a very cumbersome and time consuming process. A great deal of coordination is required and the learning curve can be expensive.
In the next and final part of this series we will review some situations where decoupling makes the most sense to marketers. Also, we will be closing out this series with an infographic summarizing the key takeaways from the Decoupling Debate - stay tuned for this as well.