FlashStock Technology Inc.

Balancing Insourcing, Outsourcing and Technology for Visual Content Production

For marketers, the digital landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace. New solutions and innovations across advertising platforms pop up on a daily basis, which means marketers have a ton of opportunity to test creative ways to target known audiences and sometimes even reach new audiences altogether.  The challenge, however, is the ability to keep up.  

The Marketer’s Challenge

In speaking with a large majority of our clients (many of whom are senior brand marketers) over the years, I often ask three questions:

  1. Has the volume of content needed to market your brand grown over the past year?
  2. Have the timelines in which you need this content shortened?
  3. Has your budget to produce this content increased?

Spoiler alert: I have never had a customer or prospect say they need less content and that they have the luxury of time and budget to create it. Their responses are always the exact opposite: they need to produce more within tight timelines and with less money. This is what we recognize as the “marketer’s challenge.”

The marketer’s challenge is one of the main reasons Shutterstock Custom was first developed. In the past, creative agencies were similar to a one-stop shop experience where you could get everything you need on your creative production list. Agencies developed the brand’s architecture, ideated and conceptualized all their campaigns; and produced every piece of content across TV, print, out-of-home, digital, and any other platform of the time. 

But times have been changing for a while. Marketing is now an integral part of driving revenue in most businesses, which means leaders are tasked to find solutions that balance marketing innovation with agility and efficiency. Naturally, technology has filled this gap with the development of mar-tech solutions. With the changing times has come an influx of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions that solve pieces of the marketer’s challenge, including data-driven tools to determine creative insights, custom content creation, personalization / dynamic versioning, and performance measurement.  In our shopping analogy, these platforms would be like the local specialty shops (the butcher, the baker, the organic store ) who fulfill one need very well. The other popular solution is for marketers to create their own in-house content factories hiring experts and building infrastructure to do it themselves.

This balance of insourcing to in-house content teams, outsourcing to agency partners and relying on technology to fill gaps is a challenge for many marketers, as a Gartner 2016-2017 CMO survey summarizes:

“More than 50% of marketers say they currently rely heavily on agencies and external marketing partners for strategy and / or execution.” - Gartner

Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen a lot of agencies adapt to solve this challenge for their clients — some successful and some not. The successful agencies recognize the shift and are open to adopting data-driven processes and tools that help drive efficiency with the ultimate goal to do more and do it better. The unsuccessful agencies get stuck preaching “you can’t scale creativity!” while their clients sigh and suffer from inefficiency. Somewhere in the middle of successful and unsuccessful are agencies that try to build tools that imitate what SaaS solutions are doing. Often, because developing technology is not the core need of their agencies' business, it’s quickly dropped and replaced by the next pressing clients' needs.

So how do you decide whether you need a one-stop shop, a specialty store, in-house resources, or a combination for producing content for your brand? Here’s a guide to help with your decision making:

Have you developed your brand persona and defined your target audience?

  • If the answer is no, starting with a one-stop shop (an agency) is a good option to get the foundational supplies.

  • If you already have a mature brand and a good understanding of your audience, it’s time to start peeking in the windows of specialty stores to find various production options and other digital marketing needs.  

  • We’ve found the best balance among our 350+ brand customers has been to work with an agency to develop your brand and define your target audience while creating a stack of partners that specialize in all the rest.

To best determine whether you should use an agency for creative production or consider other partners, here’s a list of pros and cons and use cases to think about.

Agency Benefits:

  • You can be hands-off on creative production
  • You can trust that agencies will use the best talent they have access to
  • You can be confident that agencies will know your brand 

Agency Drawbacks:

  • Creative production may not be the agency’s specialty
  • Agencies are often more expensive; not scalable for high volume content needs
  • Agencies can  take longer to produce quality visual content
  • Agencies are limited to local talent, locations and environments 

Use cases for agency involvement in production:

  • Planning of large national or multinational campaigns (use a partner to supplement content creation at scale)
  • Full production needs for high-touch TV spots, magazine/print & traditional advertising
  • Production needs that have a single creative concept or execution

Use cases for technology partners or in-house resources:

  • Images and video for use throughout digital channels  (always on organic content and paid content) 
  • Campaigns that are unplanned, have less lead time, and require fast turnarounds
  • Repeatable annual content like seasonal campaigns, events and corporate social responsibility initiatives
  • Campaigns that require localized content for global use
  • Campaigns that require products across multiple SKUs

To learn more about how Shutterstock Custom can help your brand create visual content that’s authentic and scalable, request a demo and we’ll have one of our specialists show you how it works. 

About Mindy Loverin

Mindy is the VP of Strategic Partnerships at Shutterstock and part of the founding team of the Shutterstock Custom business unit.
Her career in sales, marketing, and entrepreneurialism spans over 12 years and has been highlighted by the successful acquisition of technology start-up Flashstock in 2017. Mindy’s experience working with some of Shutterstock’s largest and most valuable brand and agency customers gives her a unique insight into the challenges of senior marketers. 
In her current role she works hand-in-hand with Shutterstocks technology partners to develop programs and solutions to enable our customers to bridge the gap between visual content and performance marketing.