OpenText Hightail

Better client collaborations: The benefits and best practices of on-site agencies

Linda Zid

April 8, 2019

News UK is an around-the-clock operation with numerous platforms, such as video, radio and two newspapers a day. As such, the organization wanted to have an agency that “moved at the speed of news,” according to Oliver Egan, chief strategy officer at Pulse Creative, an on-site agency for News UK. During a Campaign UK webinar, sponsored by OpenText Hightail, he said an on-site agency was the best solution because it meant “having people on the ground, available to move quickly who really understand the business and who are able to get things right the first time.” News UK also benefits from having outside agency support, including access to resources, people, technology and platforms.

Egan said Pulse UK has realized several benefits and opportunities that can arise from working in such close proximity to the clients, including:

Collective ownership – “We share campaign objectives and requirements with the client. There’s a lot less of a feeling of ‘them’ and ‘us,’ in terms of setting up objectives and agreeing on what we’re trying to achieve.”

Collaborative creation – Egan said his past experience with more conventional agency work has included “a lot of baton passing and a lot of approval steps.” He added, “And it’s all quite lengthy and inefficient.” Pulse Creative uses a single brief with the client, media, insight and creative all working together. “We work very closely on the strategic creative process and it feels very collaborative, not without its challenges, but on balance we believe it works very well.”

Momentum over perfection – Being in such a fast- moving news organization, Egan said, “a working hypothesis is always better than waiting around for perfect information, and that’s something that we practice in the testing, learning and iterating  that we do continually.”

He said that while being on-site does include those benefits of collective ownership, collaborative creation and momentum, “it is a relatively new model and it’s one that we continue to work with and one we continue to refine.” He also shared a few of the key lessons that have been learned along the way.

1. Go deep – He said this ability is one of the main differences between working in an on-site agency vs. a conventional external one. Instead of being spread thin against many different accounts, your role is to really understand the workings of your client’s business because you’re actually there. “We get invited to meetings we’d never normally be invited to, we’re involved in projects we wouldn’t necessarily be involved in and that gives us a far richer understanding of the business,” he said. “I think a lot of the ability to move fast is we really understand the business, and we really understand the stakeholders.”

2. Embrace tension – “Our clients don’t need us to just agree with them. Our clients need us to offer an expert perspective on what will work for any given challenge. And when you work on the same floor as them, that can be uncomfortable, but it’s something that we embrace because it’s something that’s a really important part of our role.”

3. Stay fresh – Egan said that having the ability to bring in an outside perspective is “absolutely fundamental.” This means staying in touch with the “mother-ship agency,” spending time with people outside of the business, and keeping up with what’s happening within the industry. “We bring in lots of external speakers, we do job swaps with our clients and we cycle creative teams in and out of the building for stints with us.”

4. Define your process – While agencies can be “quite fluid in their processes,” Egan said that it’s important when working within another organization to maintain your own identity and culture—as well as your own processes. “And be really clear on what it is and why and how it works.” While there might be a temptation to use the client’s process, he pointed out that on-site agencies aren’t really doing quite the same job as the client, “and it’s really important to continue to add value in everything that you do.”

For more insights on on-site agencies, read “3 drivers to consider for on-site agency operations” or watch the webinar on demand.