For a long time, you had a few choices.
Hire one of the big guys.
You certainly get big. Big experience, big strategic plans, lots of ability to handle a multitude of complex projects. Also, big salaries, big overhead, big invoices. The people doing the actual backroom work, however, tend to be junior staffers building their experience base on your money. Sometimes, if your business is big enough, this is a necessity.
Hire a smaller, regional agency.
Sometimes, a really good fit. More maneuverable, more experienced people doing the actual work on your account, a higher chance of real passion for working on your business. Still, substantial overhead and substantial invoices.
Suddenly, the choices become very wide. Some agencies are really hot creative boutiques, some are freelance people with a business card, some are trinket salesmen with a business on the side. In every case, you become an integral part of their internal organization, whether you want to or not. You provide the strategy and the oversight and, sometimes, even the financial discipline.
There’s another way.
Distill the best of the whole spectrum.
Get really, really good experienced people to work directly on your stuff — but only pay for them when you need them. Use technology to provide them with enough infrastructure to keep everybody on the same path, but don’t let it get in the way. Above all, use people who care enough to have a personal stake in making it all work.
Welcome to our world.