February 13, 2018

By Gonzalo López Martí - Creative director, etc. / LMMiami.com

Welcome to the first installment of a trilogy -or maybe a tetralogy- that will attempt a detailed SWOT analysis of the various paths a marketer can choose when hiring talent to roll out its communication campaigns. This first installment will probe the various strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats of using in-house agencies for such purposes.

  • Let’s face it: an in-house agency is a bit of a misnomer.
  • An oxymoron.
  • You know, kinda like “pretty ugly”, “walking dead”, etc.
  • If your agency’s staffers are your full-time employees too, it kinda defeats the purpose.
  • I ain’t saying it can’t be a viable option for certain jobs in certain organizations operating in some specific categories.
  • In some contexts, an in-house agency might be the cheapest option with the highest ROI.
  • Particularly in the US of A where an employer can hire & fire at will.
  • In Europe and in various Latin American countries, on the other hand, hiring a full-time employee is akin to “adopting an adult”.
  • Labor laws in most of Latin America and Europe are so sadistically stacked against employers that hiring people is regarded by many as business suicide.
  • Hence the paradox: legislation that is supposed to protect workers actually disincentivizes businesses from hiring them and ultimately keeps unemployment rates high even in good economic cycles.
  • Anyhoo.
  • Let’s review some disadvantages of in-house agencies:
  • Full-time jobs do not attract talent like they used to.
  • Those darned Millennials & GenZs simply don’t believe in the notion of waking up every morning and rushing to punch a card simply to spend 7.5 hours in a cubicle doing exactly what they could do at home, Starbucks or a hostel at the foothills of Machu Picchu.
  • They are too spoiled, too entitled, too smart.
  • IMHO this might be one of the few things they’ve gotten right.
  • Card-punching cubicle-dwelling is a vestige of the bygone industrial era of rotary phones, land lines & typewriters.
  • Moreover, Millennials & GenZs are seriously hypochondriac but, paradoxically, they are stuck in a perennial adolescence.
  • They believe they are immortal so healthcare is not really a strong enough bait to reel in good talent.
  • Then again, if you happen to get them to sign in the dotted line, they will increase the load of HR paperwork in your organization.
  • Not to mention the assorted perks they will demand as God-given rights.
  • Maternity leave.
  • Paternity leave.
  • Sabbaticals.
  • Yoga classes.
  • Free massage sessions.
  • Day-glo bean bags.
  • Foosball.
  • Safe spaces.
  • Free snacks.
  • Free vegan snacks.
  • Bring your pet to work everyday.
  • Snacks for pet lizards.
  • Vegan snacks for pet lizards.
  • Gender studies.
  • Hormone therapy.
  • Fully covered sex change operations.
  • Ok, the above perks can be dealt with or at least tolerated if employee performance justifies them.
  • Problem is, full-time employees can rapidly get jaded and comfy.
  • Sooner rather than later, most full-time employees shift gears to autopilot.
  • They just stop challenging their superiors.
  • In other words: they become “process oriented” as opposed to “results oriented” (a corporate euphemism describing the tendency of full-time staff to feign productivity while basically buying time until the next paycheck).
  • None other than the old stigma that, fairly or not, surrounds government employees and assorted unionized trades.
  • In short, full-time employees might become submissive and reluctant to speak truth to power.
  • Yes-men and yes-women.
  • Working with a “yes agency” is risky to say the least.
  • Exhibit 1: the Pepsi Kendall Jenner campaign that cost CMO Brad Jakeman his job*.
  • Because, y’know, people rarely hire employees who might eclipse them.
  • In the “up or out” logic of corporate ‘murica the old “you’re overqualified for this job” also means “you will get me fired”.
  • The Dilbert principle: companies, possibly in an unconscious way, will promote their least competent staff to management in order to limit the amount of damage they are capable of doing.
  • In other words: to get them out of the way of productive employees.
  • The paradox of leadership: if you are so good at rowing, why are you standing there megaphone in hand instead of sweating down here with us?
  • But hey, why rock the boat?
  • If you just want to cut costs and protect the status quo, a submissive in-house agency might be right what you need.
  • Now then, what prevents this same self-sabotaging dynamic from happening to an external, fully separate agency?
  • Good question.
  • Let’s try and analyze that scenario next week, yes?

* Jakeman directly oversaw PepsiCo's in-house content creation arm: http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/brad-jakeman-gut-wrenching-pepsi-j...

 

 

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