Project-Based Agency Work: Beware the Pitfalls

Project-Based Agency Work: Beware the Pitfalls
Project-Based Agency Work: Beware the Pitfalls

It wasn’t long ago that brands relied heavily on the services of agencies brimming with marketing and public relations professionals. Agency work was competitive (still is) and many brands outsourced this type of work rather than hiring an in-house team.

But this has shifted in recent years. A recent article published by Digiday points to the concerning trend of “ghosting” by brands who have requested media reviews or pitches from agencies. This type of poor and unprofessional brand behavior is a part of a growing issue in the industry. Brands are beginning to hold their work (and, more importantly for them, their budgets) closer to the vest, opting more often for project or contract based work instead of long term deals.

Of course, saving on the budget is always a benefit. But there are some serious pitfalls involved with going to project-based work only, and they may not be immediately obvious. Before deciding to pull back and contract out individual projects, consider a few things first.

The relationship an agency has with its clients is an important factor to take into consideration here. A client-agency relationship should be based on trust and results. An agency’s intention is to assist clients with their needs in a way that their competition cannot, with proven results and prompt communication.

By opting to only work with an agency on scattered projects, the brand runs a risk of the relationship failing to take off. Why does this matter?

Agencies, particularly those that do creative work, must have a feel for the client and the voice that the client wants to take. While certainly not impossible, it’s very difficult to ascertain the right tone and messaging that a client desires in a short amount of time. A genuine and authentic understanding of the brand, its offerings, and its mission will help an agency create better, higher quality work.

Contracting agencies for single projects is risky in that the agency may be unfamiliar with the client’s products or services. Of course, this is easily rectified. But remember: all great things take time. A rush job for a new and unfamiliar client may not yield the ideal outcome and could instead lead to frustration and wasted resources for a subpar product and a sour agency relationship.

Yes, signing a long term deal with an agency will cost more money, but the results may also be more impactful because of the quality of the resulting relationship. This should be taken into account when deciding to take agency proposals — and it should go without saying that “ghosting” behavior is highly unprofessional.

As the communications industry continues to shift, we’re likely to see more brands finding different ways to fill their needs. Agencies are often pitted against one another to bid at cut-throat pricing in an attempt to win a bid, and this isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

However, in order for agencies to maintain the quality of the work they promise to clients, they must be given a fair chance to do such work. Yes, turnaround times are becoming shorter and the need for instant gratification feeds into this “work fast” culture we live in. But creative or image work should not be something that’s rushed out of production simply to fill a hole.

Be strategic with the marketing budget a company has designated, and explore multiple options before simply deciding to go with project work to cut costs. Brands may end up forfeiting much more of their original resources without the proper due diligence.