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Agency or In-house? ‘Bothism’ provides the answer

By Jessica Hodgson |

TIPi Group


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February 17, 2021 | 6 min read

In marketing, we seem to love to create dichotomies – pairs of concepts organised starkly in opposition to each other. But the more we delve into these dichotomies, the more we expose them to be false: brand v performance, long v short, traditional v digital.


TiPi Group on why a hybrid approach works best in the in-house vs agency debate.

We organise things in opposition to each other when we would be better off looking at them in combination. Any marketer worth their salt knows that you really need brand and performance, long and short, traditional and digital.

Mark Ritson wrote a brilliant article on this last year, entitled ‘‘Bothism’ is the cure for marketers’ fascination with pointless conflict‘. In it he highlighted our fascination with conflict and our infatuation with finding the one right answer, when in fact embracing both is almost always the best solution.

That article got me thinking about one of the false dichotomies that Ritson didn’t mention, one of the most popular and pernicious of the past decade of Marketing history, agency v in-house.

Both = growth

The in-housing debate has been raging on for years now, and having worked both agency and client-side, I’ve seen first-hand the distinctive benefits of agencies and in-house teams and I strongly believe that the power of both combined is unparalleled.

The IPA released an article last year introducing the five most prominent models for brand and agency relationships over next decade:

  • The Titan Model – a brand selects one single external body to provide all marketing services across both strategy development and the execution of advertising operations. Growth potential: moderate.

  • The Engineer Model – the overarching marketing strategy is developed by a single, external body, while the execution of the strategy is undertaken by a multitude of agencies. Growth potential: significant.

  • The Coalition Model – the overarching marketing strategy for a brand and the execution of the strategy is developed and deployed by a coalition of multiple agencies. Growth potential: low.

  • The Hybrid Model – a combination of in-house client services and external agency services are utilised for both the development and execution of the marketing strategy. Growth potential: significant.

  • The In-house Model – the vast majority of a brand’s marketing activities are moved in-house, operated by the brand itself. Growth potential: moderate.

The choice of model will ultimately be affected by multiple factors, but at TIPi Group we’ve consistently seen the ‘Bothist’ Hybrid model provide the most growth.

Why hybrid works best

As a specialist performance agency, we know that the work we do is only one piece of the puzzle for brands. We partner with our clients and their other agencies to build a marketing ecosystem that really works; this isn’t done by generalising or minimising the importance of each factor that contributes to a brands marketing strategy; it’s done by putting the smartest people from their respective specialisms into a room together and building from there.

I have the privilege of spending most of my days speaking to people from some of the most exciting independent agencies in our industry, and I know from experience that great agencies can provide the passion, perspective, and expertise to drive brands forward. Powerful partnerships drive growth, which is why we always recommend a combination of client-side team and specialist agencies.

There is a common misconception that the hybrid model means more work for clients and agency stakeholders; this can’t be further from the truth – imagine the wealth of incredible work that comes from bringing people together who not only know how to plan across the breadth of a marketing ecosystem but have such encyclopaedic knowledge of their own specialisms that they can truly understand, and then clearly to communicate to the rest of the room, what the challenges and opportunities are for the client in that specific area.

Ok, I’ll hold my hands up, it may take one additional immersion session to get everyone introduced, but a client setting a direction with all that collective knowledge and experience in one room is worth it. I truly believe that the clients' business growth will always be positively impacted by working in this way, and as marketers we can’t forget that growth is our ultimate goal.

So instead of arguing about in-house or agency, let’s embrace ‘Bothism’ and start getting the best out of both worlds.

Jessica Hodgson, client officer at TIPi Group.

Advertising Digital Advertising Marketing Services

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TIPi Group

TIPi Group is an award winning network of specialist digital agencies. Our agencies are built on performance and profitability and share an ambition to use the power of digital to shape the future.

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