The debate around whether or not marketing teams are best placed recruiting internally or hiring an agency is one that has come back to the fore in recent years. With tight budget restrictions, many brands have considered pulling marketing functions completely in-house, which for some can make sense, but for many, still doesn’t.


Every business needs to do some analysis into exactly what their marketing requirements are and gauge what the cost of these would be if served by an agency on a cost per hours of service basis, compared to the cost of hiring full time or even part time staff to fulfil the function.

The larger the requirement, the easier it is to justify the in-house recruits, but at the same time, the larger the projects, the more likely you are the benefit from the broader skills and larger teams of an agency set up.

When calculating in-house staff costs, it’s always important to factor into the equation those hidden costs like National Insurance Contributions, Pension Contributions and a 40% overhead rate, in addition to the base salary to get a true picture of the commitment.

For a lot of businesses, there’s something very attractive in not having to deal with any of the HR side of things, and clients often mention that one of the nice things about having an agency is not having to worry about covering for sickness or holiday, as it’s an always-on service.

Finally, it’s worth considering the cost of additional tools that you will require in-house, which are covered as part of an agency retainer. For example at Avenue, we have subscriptions to a multitude of tools, including Moz, Screaming Frog, Searchmetrics and Datastudio, to name just a few.


Multi-disciplinary marketeers that also have the technical know-how and training are rare gems. Most prospective recruits will either be great at broad campaign planning or detailed technical implementation, but rarely both. So if the requirements are consistently multi-channel, then it will be easier and cheaper to have an agency with rotating specialist teams, than multiple in-house recruits. Of course, for very short-term requirements, a freelancer could also be a good option.

Secondly is the question of attracting the right talent – many young specialists agency-side are used to trendy offices in cool locations, with a vibrant, youthful culture and lots of perks, as well as competitive salaries. If you can compete, then you will have your pick of the talent, but for many businesses, the reality is that they aren’t as competitive on many of these fronts, even if they are able to remunerate generously.


There’s no doubt that with an agency, you get diversity of thinking, as well as insight from the other businesses they are servicing. They will also be at the coal face and up to date with new technological advances and barriers as they emerge.

Even if poaching an ex-agency for your own, their fresh knowledge will become stale over time and there’s a risk that they will reach their ceiling of capability across multiple disciplines.


Finally, it’s important to forward-plan if looking to recruit in-house. Any prospective employee will have to serve notice, and then there will be an inevitable period of training and understanding your business. While an agency will also need some onboarding, the process can generally be concluded in a matter of days if required, allowing them to hit the ground running and get campaigns live in an agile manner.

Keeping these employees for the long-haul will also take love and nurturing. While they are fresh into the role, any in-house employee will live and breathe the brand and be experts, but over the years, without the fresh draw of different clients to stimulate them, you can be at risk that your talent will choose to move on to another in-house setting for a fresh challenge. While agencies also suffer with staff turnover, this is something that agencies will manage internally, without the impact being felt too greatly by a client.

There’s no denying that the landscape is shifting, and many clients are looking for more training and consultancy from their agencies to help up-skill and assist in-house teams. For some businesses, this can be a good compromise to avoid the fine balance that has been discussed in this article. The cost of really good talent is often best spread across multiple clients to really reap the benefit, so at the very least, the innovation and strategy can be best-placed delivered by an agency, even if some of your implementation shifts in-house over time.

A summary of some core questions to consider as you weigh everything up:
What is the scope of your requirements?

  • Will the channels stay consistent or vary over time?
  • Would you need someone full-time or part time?
  • Are you happy to handle the HR and associated challenges?
  • Can you as a business attract the right talent?
  • How immediately do you need to switch campaigns live?
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