When it comes to creative projects and marketing campaigns...

Most businesses are torn between hiring a full-service agency that provides a complete package or one that specializes in a particular service (a.k.a ‘boutique agency’) within a niche area of expertise.

Aside from that, they’ll also consider expanding their in-house team with more creatives as an alternate solution as well.

But after jumping around multiple options, they’ll eventually discover that the best option was in fact, a full-service agency in the first place. 

Why is that the case? To answer that, let’s first understand what it is that they do before we can comprehend the reasons behind why businesses prefer using them.

What Is A Full-Service Creative Agency?

A full-service creative agency is a fully integrated marketing and advertising agency that offers a complete suite of professional services to businesses of all sizes.

These services usually include:

Advertising

Image: Robert Brye

Promoting the business and its products & services via offline and online channels.

Branding

Image: Patrik Michalicka

Creating a positive perception of the business through visual and non-visual communication; helping the business stand out via brand positioning and strategy.

Digital Marketing

Using various electronic (or digital) channels to market the business through several methods such as: 

  • Social Media Marketing 
  • Content Marketing 
  • Email Direct Marketing (EDM) 
  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) 
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Media & Print Production

Producing printed collaterals (flyers, brochures, vehicle wraps, billboards etc.) and online content (photography, videos, animations etc.) for businesses. 

Packaging Design

Image: @wearefredi

Designing eye-catching and functional product packaging for businesses across various industries.

Web Design & Development

Building professional websites for personal, ecommerce, corporate and government-related use. 

In addition, they also help businesses cover every aspect of the project from start to finish such through: 

  • Research 
  • Planning
  • Strategy 
  • Production 
  • Execution

Besides these regular services, some full-service agencies also offer ‘specialized’ services such as experience design, which refers to creating pleasant and memorable experiences in digital products for users and customers.

Why Do Businesses Prefer Using Them?

There are several reasons why businesses would often choose a full-service agency over a boutique one. One of which is the process that is usually undertaken prior to starting the project.

The Process

First, the agency will conduct a discovery session with the business to better understand their company in terms of its goals, objectives, target audience, competitors, products, services, industry verticals and other relevant (and necessary) information about the organization.

From there, they’ll gain a high-level understanding on how to best provide the professional services required of them, while offering other complementary solutions that help produce even more effective results at the end.

For instance, a new business looking to launch its company might be offered a full-suite solution that follows this process:

Branding

The agency begins by developing a brand that is unique for the company to help set themselves apart from industry competitors when entering the market. 

This is done through research and strategy that was well-planned with the project stakeholders from the start, which involves brand naming, identity creation, brand positioning and other relevant tasks.

Product Development

Next, they start developing the required physical and digital deliverables according to the created brand, such as product packaging and website design. 

This provides the business with an avenue to showcase their products and services in the most attractive manner to captivate their target audience across various channels.

Media & Print Production

Afterwards, they proceed with producing the necessary printed collaterals and relevant media content to populate the desired channels of the business.

This allows the company to constantly leverage these outputs for long periods of time to accomplish their current (and future) marketing objectives.   

Advertising & Marketing

Finally, they begin advertising and marketing the newly-launched company, alongside its products and services across various mediums.

This is strategically executed by combining industry expertise with creativity, to provide the most cost-efficient way of promoting the business while producing the best results for the long term.  


As a result, this process creates a solution that is designed to be comprehensive to not only ensure a successful launch of the business, but to provide them an excellent starting point to achieve the company’s desired goals and objectives.

The Main Reasons

Next, these are some of the main reasons as to why businesses would choose a full-service creative agency for their projects.

1) Cost-Effective Solutions

For some companies, it is more cost-effective than hiring in-house staff when it comes to providing a full range of creative, strategic or technical solutions for their projects. 

This is largely due to the recruitment and training costs involved, which easily eats into the operating expenses of a business as payroll and benefits tend to increase over long periods of time (especially when multiple individuals are recruited).

With an agency, companies (particularly with a tight budget) can skip past that process & easily afford all those professional services immediately.

While some may choose to go for a boutique agency, they tend to regret that decision later on as they were only able to provide results within one specific area, while charging a premium on their provided services.

In essence, they only helped the business achieve part of their objectives, while leaving out other crucial performance targets that could have had a positive impact on the company’s overall goals.

Thus, the primary reason for choosing a full-service agency is their huge cost savings

By doing so, businesses are able to get the most bang for their buck from the wide range of creative and strategic services available at an affordable rate, resulting in large expense reductions in the long run.

2) They Help Businesses Save Time

To expand on the previous point, time management is an important (and obvious) aspect when it comes to running a business. 

This is especially true when it comes to training one’s in-house staff in hopes that they won’t have to outsource their work in the future, while having strong capabilities that could help grow the business even further. 

Unfortunately, not all businesses have the luxury (and room for trial & error) as they usually have other important and more urgent tasks to tend to. This leaves them with very little time to manage the training, let alone execute their on-hand projects effectively. 

Worse off, if the company is under-staffed, then employees will have to start wearing ‘multiple-hats’ to make up for the lack of manpower to take on jobs that they have little or no prior experience with, leading to more stress in the company that could result in even higher turnovers.

With an agency however, businesses can avoid that situation as they can easily check in with them on the progress & results of their projects.

In the case of boutique agencies, they could provide a certain service to handle some of the workload. But oftentimes, businesses might find that what they offer is not enough to cover everything needed for their projects.

Instead, a full-service agency saves you all that trouble by offering businesses an ‘all-in-one’ solution for all their project needs, getting rid of the time wasted in looking for the right service provider. 

Not only that, but the team from the agency helps solve the problem of dedicating enough time to a project to ensure that the desired results are achieved, as they can fully focus 100% of their energy on their projects.

As a result, it frees up more time for businesses to focus on more important matters such as growing their top-line financials and maximizing profits instead.


3) Having Multiple Services Under One Roof Makes It Hassle-Free For Businesses

When it comes to a full-service creative agency, they don’t just provide a diverse range of creative and strategic services... they can also specialize in some of it as well!

But the benefits aren’t just limited to ‘quantity’ alone, as they prioritize ‘quality’ as well - knowing how to combine and complement each of them. 

To emphasize, their teams are usually made up of various individuals who are not only skilled in one area of expertise, but also have the knowledge and experience to execute each service in a more effective manner.

For instance, a web design team from the agency will have professionals that are well-versed in: 

  • Creative - Graphic Design & Copywriting
  • Technical - Web Development & SEO 

In essence, this gives businesses a complete department in various functions such as marketing, advertising, web design (IT) and more.

Moreover, when it comes to projects related to branding, marketing and advertising, a full-service agency is able to provide a more comprehensive solution to tackle certain challenges businesses face in the 21st century.

For instance, a case study on how an ice cream brand created an omni-channel presence to capture walk-ins & online customers:

From providing creative printed & digital collaterals to integrating various offline & online marketing activities, the business is able to effectively promote its brand on various physical and digital mediums to create a seamless shopping experience for customers everywhere.     

Compared to outsourcing it to a single individual or a boutique agency, businesses might find it difficult to acquire that same result due to the reduced services offered.

This means they’ll have to search for a freelancer or another agency that offers (or specializes in) that service to fill the gaps, leading to higher costs in both the short and longer term.

Not to mention, the additional meetings and discussions that come about when one chooses to outsource their service to different individuals and boutique agencies, leading to more time and energy wasted in the long run.

With a full-service agency, businesses can save themselves that frustration as they only have to deal with one party while getting everything they need under one roof, making the entire process hassle-free.

4) Their Wide Industry Knowledge & Experience Makes Them A Valuable Asset

Another advantage to having a full-service creative agency handle one’s projects is their diverse knowledge and experience across a wide range of industries. 

Put simply, their team of professionals have acquired decades of working experience with businesses from various sectors, industries and countries. 

This creates a wealth of actionable insights for businesses to tap into, as they know what has previously worked, alongside what‘s best and most effective for a certain industry or category.

For instance, a case study on running a marketing campaigns for the FMCG sector:

Because of the sector’s diversity, agencies with experience in this field will be able to advise businesses through their knowledge and expertise gathered from various categories (food, beverages, personal care, health-related etc.) on the best ways to differentiate themselves from market leaders & upcoming competitors.   

While the in-house staff of a business could compete on this front in terms of knowledge, they might lack the technical expertise however when it comes to executing the project in terms of its creative (ex: graphic design) and strategic (ex: branding) aspects.

This is not to say that they aren’t able or competent, but rather, those specific creative and strategic skills require years to develop and refine in order to generate the desired results.

An example would be email direct marketing (EDM):

Most businesses assume that EDM is all about utilizing their company’s gmail to send out massive amounts of promotional emails to their customers regularly.

By definition, that would be true. But in practice, it’s actually more difficult (and different) as gmail limits the number of emails one can send daily to their recipients within the range of 100 - 500.

Moreover, if they receive complaints from recipients regarding this, they’ll automatically categorize your email as ‘spam’ as they have a strict policy on privacy rights and ‘anti-spam’. In the worst case scenario, your account might even be shut down without any questions asked.

But that barely scratches the surface of what EDM is about, as businesses will eventually run into problems such as:

  • Scheduling large amounts of emails
  • Sending specific newsletters to certain consumer segments
  • Automation for running campaigns when a user subscribes / unsubscribe
  • Tracking the open and click-through rates (CTR) for each newsletter

Thus, this highlights the shortfalls when it comes to such projects as some don’t have prior (and professional) experience to capably perform those tasks effectively.

Not to mention, businesses will also need to track the project’s key performance indicators as well. 

With a full-service agency, their team can consult on what metrics to pay close attention to alongside the recommendations that are best suited for one's business to further optimize and improve upon to get the results they’re aiming for.

In short, their wide industry experience combined with the knowledge and expertise provides companies a unique competitive advantage in their human capital, making them a valuable asset for businesses in all their projects for both the short and long term horizon. 

5) Customizable Solutions That Can Flexibly Scale According To The Needs of A Business

Aside from having a wide range of solutions to choose from, companies are also able to customize them according to their needs.

In essence, they can easily adjust what (and how much of the) service they require depending on their products, business cycle, objectives or for any reason whatsoever.

For instance, here is a case study on running a social media marketing campaign in two countries:

In this scenario, a full-service agency will come in handy as they can integrate itself as an existing business function to not only complement the internal team in executing the project, but as additional ‘add-ons’ for their creative and strategic expertise as well.

On the other hand, companies can also take a ‘divide and conquer’ approach by having their staff handle the projects they excel in, while outsourcing the difficult ones to agencies instead.  

This enables the business to be more efficient as they are able to generate more results in a shorter amount of time.

Not to mention, the ability to flexibly scale up (or down) the services required when the company starts expanding.

This makes establishing a long term partnership with an agency even more important, as they can grow with the brand while better understanding the ins-and-outs of the business that can help them succeed even further in the future.

Thus, it’s easy to see why businesses often look for a full-service agency because of the extreme flexibility provided in terms of creating customizable solutions that scales according to the company’s individual needs.

6) Fresh & Creative Perspectives That Will Impress Their Stakeholders

After working in the same industry for a period of time, it’s normal for any individual to run out of ideas on how to further grow their business.

This is where a full-service agency can help, as they will view things from a different perspective to provide new and fresh ideas that can help offset challenges such as groupthink and the Abilene paradox.

In essence, having fresh eyes and new blood will bring in an influx of creative ideas for the business to try out. This will be especially useful for existing projects or campaigns that require a new ‘breath of life’.

For instance, this case study on how a Sarawakian rice company fought off new competition while staying relevant with existing customers:

Moreover, because of their wide ranging skill sets, a full-service agency is able to come up with even more creative and innovative solutions as they have the physical capacity to combine their various functions to deliver on such promises.

Thus, if a company is struggling to find new ways to grow their business, engaging them would help tackle and solve that problem so they could accomplish their targeted objectives and goals for the years to come.

7) Reduces Internal Work Overflow & Ensures Consistency Across All Projects & Campaigns

At times, a company might experience periods of increased workloads due to sudden changes in their operations. 

These could be from factors such as staff reduction, increased demand for their products and services, industry regulation changes or any other disruptions that have the ability to severely impact the business.

Because of that, most marketing projects would be put on hold as the company would have to redirect a majority of their resources to resolve those urgent matters quickly

With a full-service agency however, they can step in at a moment’s notice to take over those projects (especially when a key employee departs the company) and help lighten the workload during times of peak demand and ‘work overflow’. 

Moreover, because of their ability to seamlessly integrate into the business as an external communication ‘function’, they can help provide continuity to brand messages across all channels as and when needed.

Not to mention, the team from the agency will also ensure brand visuals and messaging tone is adhered to, in order to ensure consistency when executing the project itself, eliminating the risk of brand inconsistencies that could potentially devalue the brand in various aspects.

For instance, a case study on an internal communications campaign for the company’s 20th anniversary:

Similarly, an in-house staff might be trained on the technical details of a company’s products and services, but not necessarily so when it comes to persuasive marketing messages towards customers.

As such, this could result in mixed messages being sent out across different channels that creates further confusion, leading to ineffective campaigns that generate poor results at the end.

In some cases, a boutique agency might be able to help companies with this problem. However, as noted, they might only specialize within a certain channel, which means another specialist is needed to execute the campaign for the other channels as well.

For instance, getting separate boutique agencies (Facebook marketing, SEO, EDM etc.) to execute a marketing project as opposed to having a full-service agency to cover every channel.

Moreover, each agency has their own visual style when it comes to creative design, which means businesses will face a higher risk of having inconsistent marketing visuals that could derail the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Hence, it’s quite clear why businesses would once again choose a full-service agency because they are able to step in and handle the work in each and every channel, while ensuring brand consistency is followed to the dot to ensure the company’s campaigns are effective, well-designed and most of all - successful.

Where to Find Them?

Besides the results shown from search engines, businesses can refer to external websites that provide reviews (i.e. Clutch.co or TrustedMalaysia) and quick descriptions of multiple agencies across the globe.

Another approach is to head over to ‘portfolio’ websites such as Behance, which is a platform for both creatives and agencies alike to showcase their past projects and works to the public to demonstrate their creative capabilities.

But with so many available options out there, how can you choose the one that is right for your business?

One solution is to look through their portfolio that’s publicly available wherever possible. This can come from external platforms (ex: Behance) or their very own website as well. 

By examining their past projects, businesses can use this as an indicator of how experienced they are within certain industries as well as their capabilities when it comes to creative, strategic and technical expertise. 

Put simply, these are case studies on how they have helped businesses solve their problems and challenges by providing solutions that are tailored to their needs.

Here's a good example of what a portfolio showcase would be like:

Within each case study, it should also communicate a summary of the overall project such as objectives, challenges and solutions deployed to help the business.

And since companies are on the lookout for a full-service creative agency, businesses can utilize these few criteria as a guide to ensure that their professionals services are indeed diverse and wide ranging:

  • Projects across different sectors, industries, and regions
  • Different creative, strategic & technical solutions deployed (i.e. branding, advertising, digital etc)
  • Experienced with combining and executing them in past projects
  • Presented their case studies with details of their creative capabilities (to help ensure you're getting creative solutions & not something 'ordinary' instead)


Conclusion

In summary, these are some of the main reasons for why businesses prefer a full-service creative agency for their projects:

1) Cost-Effective Solutions

2) Time Saving Benefits 

3) Multiple Services Under One Roof

4) Wide Industry Knowledge & Expertise

5) Customizable Solutions That Scales To Their Project Needs

6) Fresh Ideas & Creative Perspectives 

7) Reduces Project Workload & Ensures Brand Consistency 


Essentially, they provide companies with a complete package for all kinds of professional services that deals with creatives, marketing strategy, and technical expertise in digital deliverables (i.e. websites). 

Through that, businesses can avoid the headaches and hassles when it comes to making informed campaign decisions, managing their brand’s every aspect, or even creating a unique solution that’s tailored to help the company thrive and grow.

After all, they will always have a team of professionals that is ready to assist businesses by offering solutions that will not only generate effective results, but does so at an extremely affordable rate that makes the return on investment well worth the effort.

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