'Going Native' Isn't a Bad Thing If You Do It Right
Are you agency or are you brand?
It’s a beast of a question, right up there with ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ and ‘What would you like to order, madam?’.
It’s the conundrum every in-house agency team member faces when they get so close to their client’s work, they begin to doubt their own identity.
The thing is, you do know you’re part of an agency, but you sure as hell feel like you’re batting for the brand. You spend 95 percent of your time working on clients' premises, alongside them, learning about them, knowing their business inside and out, as much as - or even more than - any brand-side employee. Sometimes, in a true act of treachery, you might even join them for Friday after-work drinks.
The agency world fears in-house employees 'going native'. People think it’s not good and proper, the brand is tainting you, you’re developing Stockholm Syndrome (but with less of the hostage-taking, more of the content strategy). That you’ve forgotten who you actually work for, and are instead serving your client’s best interests before your agency’s.
But that’s just the thing. Going native can actually be a good thing - if you know how to do it.
For one thing, there’s always going to be a certain distance between you and your client. It doesn’t matter how many times you sign the office birthday card, or how often you pitch in for your brand’s baseball team - you have too much additional knowledge and support for them to claim you as their own. You can be an integral, tight-knit part of their team, but not exclusively.
Because unlike your brand-side counterparts, you’re not siloed. Your agency colleagues offer a wealth of expertise and knowledge to tap into - you’re not just ‘the copywriter’ or ‘the coder’. You have the freedom to become as immersed in your client’s work as you like, all the while cherry-picking know-how from ‘back home’, as it were.
You can utilise your agency on a daily basis. To learn, to ask questions, to tap into skill sets that aren’t available within your on-site team set-up. You’re able to build a collaborative environment for your client, one where you can say: ‘Good question - I don't know the answer, but I know an expert who will’ and actually mean it.
For example, we work with Vision Express on a multitude of projects - some big, some small. I recently oversaw a promotion it was running for its glasses, and it just hammered home how ‘native’ I actually am.
A change in any marketing cycle can be an integral chunk of the month or even quarter for a brand, but when key offers like this one need to change mid-cycle, with only a day’s notice, an inside, ‘native’ team can scoop up all the information they need pretty much instantly. We made the necessary changes to copy and design in an afternoon. That just wouldn't have been possible if we’d been an outside agency looking in.
Learn what you can from the brand. Become the brand. Live and breathe it like a genuine brand employee. This will give you what you need to do the best work you can, in the shortest time, with the smallest amount of amends.
Going native means you can negate the dreaded sign-off procedures traditional agencies often face from the outside. It means you can fully understand your client’s culture, delivering work that’s note-perfect to their tone of voice. Over time, you learn to know what they need before they need it. A casual conversation in your client’s break room can provide more insight than a dozen catch-up calls. There might even be cake involved.
But remember, the delivery comes from your true home. Your agency.
Grace Surguy is project manager at Dare Inside