Home IMJ Features Opinion: Agencies Bring More to the Party than Freelancers

Opinion: Agencies Bring More to the Party than Freelancers

When it comes to a choice between a freelancer or an integrated agency, brands need to weigh up the pros and cons and think about the longer term implications their choices might have, argues Steve Connelly.

I have so many friends in the business who are creative freelancers. Hell, I’ve been a freelancer. And on a few occasions we hire freelancers when we need to add depth, a skill set or specific expertise.

But frankly, I’m a little weary of full-service agencies being the target of for-hire creatives calling us expensive, slow, inflexible, neanderthal, bloated with overhead. Meanie stuff.

Every day I read or listen to mercenaries tell the world that agency culture is not important, that organic sharing of ideas is overrated, and that paying by the day is a much smarter option to get access to global talent than paying a retainer.

Now I know there are exponentially more freelancers out there than full-service agencies, and those voices will overpower this single voice in the wilderness. But still, full-service agencies need to be defended. I guess I’ll accept the laser targets on my back as I offer a differing opinion.

Freelance art directors and writers are awesome talents. But they move from assignment to assignment, from agency to agency, hired keyboards who are not (in most cases) deeply invested in understanding the brand’s business or truly understanding and representing the agency’s point of view. That’s a big distinction.

My point of view is that every agency should have a point of view, a style, a belief in the best way to connect with customers. Something to differentiate them from other agencies and give brands clear choice and agencies clear tenets.

Freelancers get a brief, ideate, share their perspective, hit the send button, and then submit a bill.

Integrated agencies can afford, and frankly have a responsibility, to be proactive. We can afford to be an invested, multi-skilled brand partner that generates ideas and invests hours without the meter running like a cab stuck in Friday Dublin traffic. We don’t work in a silo, solitary or otherwise.

And as such, we can put brand challenges and possibilities on an agency conference table and debate solutions with multiple skill sets all looking at a challenge through a shared belief system. Brand, creative, analytics, media, strategy, digital, social, influencer – all bouncing ideas around and challenging each other.

That’s what you get when you own a car instead of relying on Ubers all the time. Agencies are always thinking of you from all angles. Or should be anyways.

Think of it this way, you’re hungry for ideas. If you use freelancers, you simply take your car up to a drive-up window. You talk into the speaker, tell the voice exactly what you want. You see the price right there. You then grab your bag of marketing and drive off. Convenient. Fast. And I will never, ever speak ill of the food caliber at the drive-up window.

Conversely, with an agency, it’s more like walking into a kitchen of your favorite restaurant. You present the “I’m hungry” challenge to the different chefs and cooks you’ve come to trust. And these people, they know you, your tastes, your limits, when it’s time for comfort food and when it’s time to push your tastebuds to try something new. There’s imagination, speciality, expertise, stock rooms and walk-in fridges filled with ideas. And the conversation begins.

With a freelance creative, the clock is always ticking. With an agency the conversation is untimed, unscripted, authentic, spirited and more about answering a challenge than filling an order.

Some of us full-service agencies are not bloated with overhead, we are invested in clients and making sure we can offer a 360-degree perspective. Some of us mandate in-person exchange and place huge emphasis on building culture, relationships and the honesty that comes with those relationships.

Some of us are every bit as flexible and fast as any freelancer. Some of us believe that the best marketing soldiers are not paid mercenaries. Some of us believe an agency’s responsibility is to be proactive not reactive. Some of us have a consistent point of view on what effective marketing is that doesn’t change like a chameleon’s colors depending on the pitch, the client, the day, the brief or the budget.

Some of us have had enough of freelancers telling the world we’re outdated, we’re overpriced, we’re remnants from days of excess gone by. Enough.

Hey, I love a good drive-up window as much as the next guy.

But the reality is with a creative freelancer, you get what you pay for. With a full-service agency, the right agency anyways, you should get more.

Steve Connelly is president and copywriter at Connelly Partners which has offices in Dublin, Boston and Vancouver.

Previous articleSecond Episode of Legacy Communications Podcast Focuses on Creativity
Next articleCore Tops Latest Effies Rankings for Ireland