The In-house vs Agency Debate: Why it Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing


Lots of buzz has been made recently about the “in-housing” trend, which is, at its core, brands taking more internal control over their media buying. Just in the last three months, reports from the IAB, Forrester and the In-house Agency Forum and MediaMath have surfaced discussing the topic. In-housing has become synonymous with cutting your agency, but as these reports show, in-housing is not so black and white, and can also be difficult to do fully unless you are a major retail brand with a heavy ecommerce presence. What’s real and what’s hype when it comes to in-housing? We explore below.


In-housing = no more external agency


While some brands ultimately want to create their own internal agency to handle all aspects of media buying, the reality is that many brands are using a combination of in-house and outsourced talent. The Forrester and In-House Agency Forum report found that most survey respondents said that an increase in internal agencies doesn’t mean external agencies will decrease. In fact, in-house agencies often hire external agencies. There are different ways to split it; in the case of Omnicom Group Inc., agency BBDO handles AT&T’s external advertising while the in-house group handles marketing for existing customers.


In-housing is easier than dealing with external partners


We’re not sure if you’ve heard, but there is a talent shortage in tech. As the MediaMath report points out, the industry’s rapid growth over an extended period “means high-quality talent remains sparse, and making hires is difficult for nearly every organization.” Brands need to be able to conquer geography—if you’re based outside a major tech hub like New York City—and size, meaning you need to consider succession planning and limits to collaboration.


In-housing follows only one path


There is no one way to in-house. Some brands take it all in house (though, as said above, this is rare), others have their tech provider and agency have a seat at the table, others continue to outsource operations to their agencies. The MediaMath report points out a phased approach to get to “full in-housing,” which takes a brand from managed service to self-guided while leaning on their tech provider’s professional services team.


In-housing is complex and there is no one way to do it. Whatever your level of desire to in-house and your goal in doing it, open the conversation with both your agency partners and your tech providers. Chances are, there is a path you can all work along together to get to your end goal.


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