Advertising's Hybrid Future: Why Outsourcing Is Here to Stay

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a drop in global advertising expenditures. To survive, many agency owners and department leaders had to trim their payrolls and restructure their teams.

These changes forced them to rely on “rented” talent. Essentially, agencies owners and advertising leaders outsourced work to freelancers who could support their existing team members. They delegated noncentral responsibilities to third parties that were available on demand.

This isn’t the first time agency owners and advertising leaders have “rented” talent. The 2008 recession forced many businesses to outsource advertising work. At this point, I’d say that 99% of agencies and departments have a hybrid work model that includes W-2 employees and freelance workers. Not all work requires a full-time staff member, and that’s what the industry is figuring out.

While outsourcing seems to be here to stay, some agency owners and leaders are held back by lingering fears. For instance, what if the partner’s work isn’t up to par? It’s essential to set realistic goals for external vendors. I’ve seen people expect outsourced partners to nail projects on the first try but give far more grace to full-time employees. Instead, I recommend setting consistent expectations internally and externally.



Additionally, some agency owners worry their clients will want to hire their outsourced partners instead of their agencies. But the solution is simple: Include a provision in partners’ contracts stating they can’t work directly for clients. Clear contractual language can prevent this issue and any potential future problems.

I’d also recommend taking your time with any outsourced partner relationships. Clients come and go, but working relationships can last a long time. To ensure they’ve chosen the right partners, agency owners and advertising leaders should schedule regular candid conversations. How are things going? What’s saving time and money? Jumping from partner to partner won’t drive growth, so agency owners and advertising leaders should put in the time to cultivate their relationships.

The past year posed significant challenges to those in the advertising industry, but agency owners and department leaders can adapt accordingly by embracing the flexibility of freelance hires. These on-demand partnerships are perfect for businesses that might not have enough work or budget for a full-time team member.

While this hybrid work model is relatively new to many advertising professionals, there are ways to make it work. Outsourced tasks have been around for many years in the business world, so there are plenty of examples to learn what to do — and what to avoid. By leveraging the abilities of outsourced partners, agencies can cover skill gaps while making better use of full-time employees.


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