Brands: Forget The ‘In-Housing vs. Outsourcing’ Debate, FlexSourcing Gives You The Best of Both…

Written by Matt Carroll

With M&S Food recently becoming the latest big-name brand to take creative ‘inhouse’, the debate is hotting up over how to handle the content creation dilemma of decreasing budgets / increasing demand. For most brands it’s a two-way choice: either in-house or outsource it. There is, however, another way – one that gives you the best of both.

FlexSourcing blends the functionality of an in-house team, with the expertise of specialists, ensuring you get premium quality creative on every project – while stretching your spend further than traditional models, so it can be applied where it’s most effective: in media and activation.

The realities of in-housing

While everyone’s talking about M&S right now, in-housing has been happening for years. Brands like Specsavers, have built an enviable reputation over many years for producing quality inhouse work – as has Net-a-Porter – and on paper the benefits are obvious. Cut out the ‘middlemen’ and you’ll save time and money, while regaining creative control. But that’s assuming it all goes to plan.

Building a functional in-house team takes time, up-front investment – and the right talent. And even then it can be a rocky road. Assuming you attract the right people away from their buzzy agency backdrop, how do you ensure they’ll work well together as a team? How do you keep things fresh when they’re used to a varied diet of different brands and – trickiest of all – how do you ensure best practice and premium output when you’re limited to using whoever’s on payroll?

Speaking from experience – as someone who’s owned production companies for over 10 years – the answer is you often end up going back to the external suppliers you were trying to get away from. Why? Because as specialists, they’re experts at what they do.


What About Outsourcing?

So what happens when you go to straight to specialists – best-in-class practitioners in their particular field, whether that’s sector, touchpoint or media? All well and good if you’ve time to build relationships with multiple partners – setting them up as suppliers and making sure they all play nice. Then comes the challenge of threading it all together – generating the big idea, devising the overall strategy and creating the comms plan. Another set of relationships to wrangle.

While pundits and industry press talk about this binary pinballing as something new – it’s been happening for decades. What is new, is that technology has now enabled us to cherry-pick the best of both. Or as I like to think of it: have your proverbial lemon drizzle and scoff the lot. That’s where &FRIENDS and our approach of FlexSourcing comes in.

What The F*ck is FlexSourcing?

Put simply, it’s the ability to pick the right people for the right projects – in the right places at the right time. Every time. That can be under your roof, our roof or theirs – or a combination of all three – across the year.

Through 20 years of working in global production and content creation, we’ve built a network of specialists around the world – friends we called on when we needed something specific. All we’ve done now is anchor this functionality in a proprietary in-house platform that enables us to create bespoke specialist teams of FRIENDS for our clients, which you simply ‘switch on’ or scale up whenever you need. It’s global, it’s over 2,000-strong already – and it’s growing by the day.

For clients it means no complicated cost-models, cap-ex concerns or worrying about whether the culture will work. Unlike the other platform-based ‘disruptors’ out there – many of whom simply shop your brief to the lowest bidder without offering much in the way of added value – everyone we select for your team is onboarded into your brand – and properly trained in the codified &FRIENDS ways of working, which are underpinned by two decades of experience. Think of it as the Fantasy Football of content creation – with us as your personal ‘manager’ – helping you pick the right team for each specific brief.

What’s more, at &FRIENDS we handle key elements of the creative process in-house – including strategy and comms planning, ideation and creative direction, right through to post-production and reversioning.

All this is managed by one point of contact – a senior producer who works shoulder-to-shoulder with you across the year – rather like your personal agency ‘concierge’ – on call for advice, queries, or even a cocktail (lockdown-depending).

Why it’s Time to Work With Production Partners – Not Suppliers

So why does all this matter – and how will FlexSourcing benefit your business? Simple answer: with digital content being the key conduit between you and consumers, putting in-house generalists on the job simply won’t cut it – while managing multiple specialists will eat up time and budget.


Right now almost all brands are facing the same reality: after the year we’ve just had you can’t afford to market like you did before. But… you can’t afford not to market. With cooped-up consumers about to be unleashed, there’s some serious pent-up demand out there – audiences that are looking to be meaningfully inspired, by brands that ‘get’ them.

With properly conceived strategic planning – and a publisher mindset / premium production approach to creative – the budget you’ll save by FlexSourcing your team will enable you to apply your spend where it really matters: in media and activation. Because however amazing your in-house team or outsourced specialists – it’s wasted budget if no one’s seeing the work.

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