The dangers of bringing your agencies in-house.

I suppose there was a sense of schadenfreude amongst a lot of agencies when they watched the PR car car-crash that piled up around the Pepsi Kendall Jenner ad campaign. It was supposed to be an example of good advertising crafted by an in-house creative powerhouse.

In the driving seat that fateful day was Kristin Patrick, senior VP-global brand development. Mr Jakeman, President of PepsiCo Global Beverage Group had praised the ad on Twitter on Tuesday morning shortly after it was released, saying he was “super proud of the @PepsiCo #CreatorsLeague for producing this,” but the tweet has since been deleted. Another danger of deleting your soon-regretted statements of support is that news of your deletion also goes viral! Only adding to the sense of incompetence.

But in many ways it’s often hard to judge a brand who wants to bring in talent and have them as part of the company. Agencies in cahoots with the big social media platform providers recently have been investing heavily in “smoke and mirrors” stock and using all kinds of data wizardry to cast a spell on their clients with data falsification tricks that would shame a seasoned carney.

There is a lack of confidence in big data and the lies surrounding its efficacy. Brands can feel more secure if they can attract agency talent to the client side.

So what are the reasons this movement of talent is happening more and more?

The big agencies often just too slow to react. The digital space is lightning fast. Look at the recent United Airlines overbooking fiasco. The CEO took over a day to apologise. If a week is a long time in politics, a day is an eon in social media timeframes.

Even now the big agencies may talk the talk on social and content but they still know the big bucks is in advertising and worse they create campaign in spikes. “Always on” “Little and often” is difficult, time-consuming and needs planning across the long term. But the truth is continuity is more important than campaigns.

The old way of paying for standard report of “impressions” from an agency is long gone, but today taming your consumers’ data is seen by many innovative brands as an internal prerogative. Brands need to own the data and protect it and in-house seems a more secure plan.

Agencies are often seeing client budgets reducing year on year. So they too must maintain the bottom line. Too often, talent is stretched too thinly over too many clients at agencies. Similar ideas are regurgitated and fresh thinking and innovation are seen as too time consuming and risky. And with a limited talent pool who have little long-term security we are seeing too many agencies involved in talent churn. Productivity suffers when there is too much personnel churn. Client trust and the building of ongoing relationships also suffer.

At Toast, we and other specialist niche agencies see a real opportunity to offer brands a third way. Big global players are seeing the advantage of having a roster of smaller niche agencies who are quick, agile and cost effective. Who can deliver content at lightning speed and react to the organic consumer conversations already taking place and join in with genuinely useful and entraining communications.


The truth is that smaller agencies care more about good advertising, and are less focussed on profit centre reports demanded by their agency network overlords and crucially much more dedicated to helping their client’s business grow.

Small agencies innovate and adapt quicker. They tend to be good at one thing and do it really well – big agencies and their “jack of all trades” approach is simply not good enough anymore in a world where the consumer is always looking to avoid advertising. Most importantly a smaller agency’s attention to detail is far superior as they have a smaller client roster and less talent churn. Also their talent pool tends to be more about bringing in the right freelancers for the job to ensure the team are up to speed on the client’s sector’s needs.

This is the clincher! With smaller operating costs and flat structures smaller agencies offer much better value for money and they don’t lure clients in with bait-and-switch tactics where they promise them big ideas, big names and big resources and then, as we see far too often, reduce all these once the account is won.

TOAST are a small friendly, cost effective boutique agency. We specialise in helping clients move to the next level by getting under the skin of a brand and creating genuinely effective TV spots and associated content that deliver proven ROI.

Small is beautiful as they say.