Can Creative Work Be Outsourced to India?

I was discussing this topic with an executive of a local advertising agency during February’s “Third Wednesday Social Media Meet-up” in Halifax.

Our discussion was about how an ad agency in another part of Canada has been successful in utilizing effective outsourcing to provide its clients with competitive pricing and shorter delivery times by being able to have people continuously work on projects around the clock due to the advantage of various time zones.

That prompted a larger question of whether ‘creative’ work can be outsourced. Can ‘good creative’ be delivered only by creative talent that exists in the location of the client, and who have natural cultural/geographic ties to the environment where the creative will be used?

In my experience, here are some (not all) of the factors that I would look at when evaluating the option to outsource (to India, for example):

1. Proven Expertise & Reliability

A solid portfolio of projects and talent. References from other outsourcers who worked with the Indian company. In short, the quality of the work has to be at least the same (or even better) compared to local quality in the country of the outsourcing company.

The Indian provider must also have (and be able to demonstrate) a stable market presence. The outsourcing company can not take the risk of accepting a client project and making commitments, then turn around and discover that the Indian partner has closed shop without prior notice and is no longer in business.

This is the basic requirement of vetting and pre-screening the potential partner before starting any serious discussions or negotiations. Quality and reliable delivery can not be jeopardized by the potential advantages of outsourcing the work.

2. Communication

This includes factors like language, technology platform, people, professional practice, and cultural contexts (when applicable).

Communicating effectively is perhaps the single most important factor that affects the quality of the end product. Having an open and reliable channel of communication (between the company outsourcing the work and the company providing the service in India) is the backbone of a successful relationship.

Both sides must be intimately familiar with any technology platform that they agree to use for handling communications, manage document exchanges, event logging, feedback, project timelines, etc. Both must be prepared to invest in training their relative teams.

The assigned person(s) who will handle communication between the two companies have to meet ahead of time and determine if they are able to understand each other and build trust. If the project manager from the Indian side is not a good fit to handle communications with the outsourcer, then a new one must be selected.

In many cases, companies seeking to outsource are concerned with language barriers, and they usually expect that the Indian partner be able to communicate effectively in the language of the outsourcer (e.g. English) and not the other way around (the outsourcing company doesn’t expect to make provisions for communicating in Indian).

While cultural context does play a factor in communicating creative requirements, this is not necessarily a deterrent. Ensuring that briefs and project requirements are clear and thorough is a shared responsibility between the outsourcing company and the Indian provider.

In fact, some people agree that it is an advantage to have access to creative output that is not bound by local conformity to cultural biases and norms. To some businesses, ‘different’ makes their design/ads stand out, and that is a competitive advantage.

The cultural relevance of a project can be determined on a per-project basis. For example, would/should a local newspaper in Dublin be able to outsource the creation of daily cartoons about local politics? Not likely. Can a Dublin ad agency outsource the creation of ads for a local car dealer? Most certainly.


There are other factors to consider, but if the above two requirements exist and are satisfactory to both partners, then the rest can be negotiated and agreed upon (including pricing that is fair for the quality of work, and that provides the outsourcer with a competitive advantage they wouldn’t otherwise have).

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  3. Advertising Torture – More Creative Elevator Ads

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