The Hokey Cokey Question

The “Hokey Cokey” (or “Hokey Pokey” if you are American) is a song and dance with a lot of “in” and “out” movements of arms and legs.  Real life imitates this tradition in the debate about whether businesses should directly employ specialists or out-source marketing services.

The creative services which can be subjected to the Hokey Cokey test include digital marketing, PR, advertising, sales promotion, conferences, exhibitions, product launches, corporate hospitality, awards and recognition events and a range of similar business communications. 

The choice is wide open to corporate organisations and professionals working in these fields, as there are plenty of examples of client companies in both camps.  Many contrasting aspects of using in-house departments versus external agencies present similar “pros and cons” for both the client and the career executive. 

In – out, in – out, shake it all about

Corporate strategy has to be adjusted to reflect market, social and economic changes.  This often results in cyclical patterns and policies appearing, over mid to longer-term periods.  Just as decisions about centralisation and de-centralisation return periodically like phases of the moon, so the option of in-house resources being reduced by outsourcing is regularly reviewed, especially by Financial Directors!

These are some of the arguments for each of the options, from the point of view of the corporate client:

INTERNAL RESOURCES AND STAFFING EXTERNAL AGENCY SERVICE TEAMS
Employees trained and managed within the corporate infrastructure Independent, entrepreneurial people willing to risk their reputations with every project
Continuity, stability and direct control by employing  in-house teams Flexibility, fresh perspectives, importing knowledge from other markets
Close financial management of projects, utilising capital investment in equipment and facilities Access to the latest products and services on the market, with no capital outlay
Specialist experience of the client’s market, processes and procedures, culture and traditions Dedication to the client’s objectives, whilst also acting as a “critical friend”
Systems and structures customised to the particular organisation Experience of working in multiple environments and optimising available resources
Expert knowledge of products and services within the specific sector Creative talents tuned into markets and responsive to change

Here are some of the arguments for each of the options, from the point of view of the employee:

INTERNAL CORPORATE ROLE EXTERNAL AGENCY ROLE
Learning how the business functions from top to bottom and across divisions Exposure to a wide range of projects and creative solutions across different industries
More predictable working hours, reasonable job security and a clear structure Co-operating with demanding creative people, ever-changing agendas and long hours
Being able to make decisions and implement them with a degree of autonomy Contribution always subject to client choice and their ultimate authority on key decisions
Ability to delegate tasks and responsibilities to suppliers, to optimise available time Expected to be flexible and adaptable at all times to suit the client’s current situation
Enjoying a range of corporate benefits and the status of high profile brand names Less security and future predictability than in a  corporate organisation
Limited exposure to different industries and markets Opportunities to develop a range of skills in different agency roles

The discussions about the relative merits of using in-house or agency teams will never cease.  As the old song says, “You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around, that’s what it’s all about!”

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