Strengthen the creative core and outsource the rest

Munni Trivedi  •  March 2022

2022 offers an unprecedented opportunity to start anew. We have a once-in-a-career chance to reimagine our business models. We don’t have to fall back into old habits that were already broken or not fit for purpose because they were built in the 20th century and never challenged nor updated.

Life moves on. We can do things differently.

Emerging into a new dawn, putting the challenges of Covid-19, lockdowns, and enforced remote work behind us, we can and should review our choices about how work gets done. Too many businesses spend too much time on activities that don’t create value.

To paraphrase the Pareto Principle 80 per cent of value comes from 20 per cent of the work or if we flip it, 80 per cent of our time only delivers 20 per cent of our value.

That’s true in many creative agencies. Real value comes from originating new and innovative ideas that will give customers comfort, boost sales, add market share, lift margins, and put your client’s products or services on the radar of new segments. Those are the metrics of success for a creative agency.

Focus on your core value

If you’re a branding agency, the value is in bringing the brand promise to life and not so much in making the brand book or applying the logo to several hundred items from hoodies to handtowels and hard drives to headsets. For a packaging agency the highest value is in the design intent, rather than a thousand SKUs that need to be optimised for different markets with different regulatory requirements in various languages across multiple pack sizes.

If you are a financial reporting agency your best people should be focused on storytelling. They should be developing compelling narratives that show how a company is solving real world problems. Running in text and creating charts on financial pages or proofreading the governance section is vital work but it’s not where the real value lies for either the creative agency or the client.

A games maker’s value is in imagining the virtual world that gamers will want to explore and inhabit and building a superior UX. Making the dozens of ‘skins’ that each player may choose to dress their avatars in is a routine task that can be done elsewhere. It’s not part of the creative core.

In many studios the balance gets lost with precious resources used to do repetitive tasks which are important to the overall project but not core to their business. And when this happens, resources go under-utilised, fixed costs creep up, utilisation drops, margins slip, and the busines fails to reach its full potential.

Let someone else do the heavy lifting

A new approach is to bolster the creative resources in your team to make sure that you have access to the finest talent available to do the things that only you can do. Hand over the routine but time-consuming tasks that are not core to your service offering to a production specialist. This way you can focus on what you do best and the tasks that let you create maximum value. That’s your creative core.

If you’re an agency boss in 2022, thinking about the next phase of profitable growth, one of your first considerations should be to outsource your studio production work. Those repetitive, or heavy lifting, tasks need to be done right, and done efficiently, but are not the best use of your valuable studio team’s time. These are the easiest tasks to outsource, and the returns (financial and non-financial) will be immediate.

Five reasons why you should outsource your studio production right now:

  1. Shift costs from fixed to variable – By moving to a production outsourcing model you can shift costs from fixed to variable. You better align costs to particular jobs. When you use an outsourcing solution, you can grow without having to invest in expensive kit, office space, or other capital items. You can move costs to OpEx and pay for what you consume.
  2. Buy cheaper – If you choose an outsourcing firm that is based in a lower cost market you enjoy the benefits of wage arbitrage. Savings can be between and 30 and 40 per cent and those savings drop straight to your bottom line.
  3. Increase capacity – An outsourcing partner will give you additional capacity on an on-demand basis. This means you can better meet peaks in demand either seasonal or when you win new work for which you weren’t geared up. The partner may well be able to provide you with a deeper bench strength with access to hard-to-find technicians.
  4. Extend your studio day – If you’re based in the US, or the UK, an outsourcing partner in Asia gives you an additional full or half day of studio time. They’ll be working during your down time or alongside your night shift and deliver work in before your studio gets going each morning. This is a boon when you’re working to tight deadlines and need to turn work around at short notice.
  5. Extend the portfolio – Your outsourcing partner probably offers a variety of other services that are allied to your service offering. This may mean that you can expand your offering without needing to make capital investments.

Alongside these benefits there are other factors to keep in mind as you think about the possibilities.

Transfer seamlessly

A professional, well established pre-media outsourcing studio will use the same software as you – let’s say multiple parts of the Adobe Creative Suite. With licensed software, now available in a SaaS model, they’ll receive upgrades at the same moment you do. So, there’s no longer a need to change files into earlier or later versions. This means that a job can quickly and seamlessly be handed between departments. Checking software licences, as well as for example GDPR compliance, should be one part of your due diligence when considering an outsourcing arrangement.

Build in partnership

For this transformation of your business model to succeed, you need a partner that can support your agency’s workflows – not impose someone else’s on you. Your systems and processes won’t be standard. That means that your outsourcing partner needs to demonstrate flexibility and agility and a deep knowledge of the type of work you’re proposing to move. If you listen to their experience, you may find that they can show you ways in which process can be optimised.

Keep your core team informed

Outsourcing stirs up concern. Some people will be resistant and find a hundred reasons why it won’t work. Success requires good and honest communication. Your people should see that this is a way of freeing up time and resource to focus on the creative core – the places where you build the most value for your business and your clients. Hear their concerns. Make them part of the transition and let them contribute to the success of your new way of working.

Munni Trivedi is managing director of Indigo Premedia. Before moving to Asia to found the business she worked as production director in several leading creative agencies in London.

If you’d like to discuss how strengthening the creative core and outsourcing production work could benefit your business, drop Clement Aro a line on

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