Agencies shouldn’t white label

When Cameron Bryant started Sparro in 2013, he was asked by a financial services brand to white label his services. He said no. Every month, a similar request comes through. Every day, he's asked if he wants to outsource work. Every time, it's a no. Here, he explains why.

There’s a lot of talk in the industry about transparency, as traditional agencies move away from hiding fees, marking up media, kickbacks and overcharging. But true transparency means so much more than that.

When we first started Sparro in early 2013, the opportunity arose for us to work on a huge, financial brand, and, as an up-and-coming business, we jumped at the idea. Unfortunately, the company wanted to white label our services.

We quickly realised that this was to the detriment of the client, who had little transparency over who was actually completing the work. It meant that, when the client sat down and ran through the results, they were being taken through them by an account manager who did not know the channels, was unfamiliar with the campaigns, and was not closely tied to the performance. Being so disconnected from the channel, the account manager didn’t know what could actually be achieved.

We’re asked on a monthly basis if we can white label our services. We’re asked on a daily basis if we want to outsource our work.

The answer to both is obvious.

Transparency is knowing exactly who is doing your work, and being able to sit in front of clients and run through the results, good or bad.

We tend to get asked to white label our services by agencies that are managing other media channels for a client but don’t work across search products themselves. These agencies see search as an add-on, or a line item to add to what they are running on TV or OOH.

That’s wrong. Search is not an add-on. It requires skilled professionals to run campaigns successfully. Having access to the client, as well as technical and content teams, is important. You don’t buy search like you do TV, so it shouldn’t be sold that way.

Clients want to be closer to who is actually performing the work, rather than those who are selling it with buzzwords. They receive greater value for money when they can speak to someone who can action the tasks that are most important to them.

I hope the conversation around transparency can continue within the industry, but let’s move beyond billing, or who owns who.

Transparency means knowing exactly who is doing your work.

Cameron Bryant is a partner at Sparro


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