When to Use In-House Creatives vs. When to Hire an Ad Agency

As an entrepreneur, you’re a go-getter. You’re not afraid to step out of your comfort zone and learn new things. You aren’t scared of the words “animation” “html 5” or “graphic design”. You might even be excited about the prospect of adding a new set of skills to your tool belt. Is learning how to do this yourself really worth it for you though? In order to make that call, you need to consider what your current strengths and weaknesses are, how much you already know, and what the stakes of this particular project/skill are for your business.

Strengths and Weaknesses

When you’re making the decision to outsource a project or learn to diy, you need to consider your own strengths and weaknesses. Some people are naturally more creative than other people, and some people are naturally more analytical and better with numbers than other people. This is key for choosing whether or not to learn the thing for yourself. If you’re naturally very creative, it might make sense for you to add basic graphic design to your skill set. If you’re more analytical, it probably isn’t worth the headache of trying to learn how to make it. When you’re not good at something, and when you hate doing it, it shows in the final product. When you’re bad at something, you have to put in much more time and effort to create something that’s just barely passable, and you hate your life the whole way through. Don’t give yourself a headache doing something you hate. The key to having a successful business is knowing what your strengths are, and what they aren’t. When you run into a project that aligns with an area you’re weak in, I strongly suggest outsourcing it.

How Much Do You Already Know?

It’s important to have a certain level of understanding of what makes an effective creative from the get-go. The more you already understand, the less you have to learn, and the easier it will be for you to learn this skill for yourself. This is going to depend on the kind of creative you’re trying to build, but for example’s sake, let’s say you’re working on a display ad. In order to create a successful display ad campaign, you’re going to need to understand the basics of design, composition, color theory, and typography. But you’re also going to need to understand the structure of a good display ad. And you’re going to need to understand how to use the software, or for that matter, which software to use to create the ad. 

There are plenty of resources online that can help you learn all of these things. But that might not be the most productive use of your time. Depending on the extent that you understand each of these concepts, and whether or not you’re naturally a creative person, it could take you hours, days, maybe weeks before you have the knowledge necessary to create an effective display ad. Then you might come out the other side only able to create something decent. Not remarkable, not incredible, or ground breaking, but decent enough to post online. All that time, money and effort, just to create something average.

It’s often easier, and cheaper, to hire someone to make one for you in the first place. The professional that you hire, whether through an agency or in-house, has already gone through this extensive learning process. There’s a common saying among creatives and artists: Before you can make anything good, you have to get through the hundreds of terrible drawings and images inside you first. They’ve already spent the years developing their style, and getting the bad designs out of their system so you don’t have to. 


If the immense amount of work, knowledge, and time that goes into creating excellent image assets hasn’t scared you away, there are a few places you can find inspiration for ad creation. Good artists and designers find inspiration out in the wild, but when you’re first starting it can be hard to get started. Pinterest is a great place for inspiration for color palettes, branding, and graphic design. Their board system makes it easy for you to create different mood boards to come back to when you need some extra oomph. If you’re still suffering from creator’s block, check out Google’s brand new Rich Media Gallery. Google has compiled display ads from all sorts of industries for you to look at. You can search to see what kinds of ads your competitor is running, so you know how to stand out.

One thing you’ll notice immediately when you look at the gallery is that there isn’t any set formula to an effective display ad. They all follow the same structure, more or less, including a logo, a call to action, and simplicity. Some of the best ads break the biggest design laws, however. Good designers know how to break the rules, and what rules to break in order to surprise a viewer. Surprising them is the best way to get their attention and increase ad recall, which leads to conversions, and money in your pocket. 

You might be entirely capable of creating basic display ads. And they might even be relatively effective. But when you really want to stand out from the crowd, and you want your customers to recognize your brand, you’re going to need to blow their socks off. To do that, you’ll need to up your display ad game, and include images assets of many different sizes, you’re going to need to include animations through GIFs, or through HTML 5 Ads, which means you’re going to need to use a designer that understands animation, and the basics of computer coding. At the end of the day, you might be able to get by making your own ads for a while, but there will come a time when you need to up your game to scale your business. Don’t shy away from hiring an expert digital designer for this. The difference it makes in the quality of your ads is drastic.

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