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Outsourcing has been identified as a potentially lucrative way for South Africa’s specialist businesses to weather the economic storm and take advantage of opportunities. Glenn Gillis, MD of digital animation and augmented reality agency Sea Monster, says these prospects extend to outsourcing creativity too.

“There are real opportunities for South Africa’s value creation process,” Gillis says. “Although creative outsourcing is typically more complex than business process outsourcing (BPO) or call centres because it deals with the creation of an intangible product, South Africa has the people and talent needed to compete globally.”

The returns on outsourcing creative projects can be significant. The trick, he says, is being able to predict demand in relation to supply in order to calculate where the gap in the market exists.

Globally there is a demand for innovative solutions to business problems – regardless of the industry – and outsourcing creative or technical projects has the potential to drive the creation of value-added products.

The @home: Your Space app – developed by Sea Monster for the retailer – illustrates how a project to improve customer engagement added value to the brand offering and strengthened its relationship with its consumers. The app works by allowing customers to browse selected items from the @home catalogue on a digital device, and then virtually places that item inside their home, using the device’s camera – offering an interactive experience that enables the brand to learn more about its customers.

Outsourcing creativity, says Gillis, can’t be viewed as simply fulfilling a contractual obligation. “Brands and their creative agencies need to focus on knowing who the brand’s customers are and tailoring solutions to meet their needs.”

Likewise, brands should not just look at outsourcing as buying services – rather, he argues, they should invest in specialist companies and agencies to allow them to do their best work, implement workable solutions and prove that they have the capability to handle these types of projects.

Overall, South African specialist companies and agencies need to change their mindsets to take advantage of the opportunities that outsourcing provides. “Intangible products are a complex space to work in, but South Africa has proved it has the talent: if agencies focus on the brand’s customers and act strategically, it is possible to create value-added campaigns and products,” he concludes.

The big take-out: Outsourcing creative projects enables brands to find innovative solutions to business problems by co-creating value-added products with specialist organisations.