Marketing | 08 MIN READ

7 facts why in-house is the future of digital marketing

In-house is the direction where digital marketing is travelling. Take a look at industry job pages and the need for in-house talent is huge. The shift from agency to in-house is gaining momentum and has been for some time.

The moment of truth

For some industry insiders this movement is the ultimate moment of truth. The moment when brands have finally had enough of a broken – and less than transparent – agency model. For others it’s a result of  issues arising from the brand safety crisis. For most, it’s simply that horrible feeling of not getting value for money, a decent return on investment.

A revolution is stirring

In recent months global holding companies like WPP have been subject to share price drops. Agency mergers have continued unabated, while huge advertisers like P&G are cutting thousands of agencies from its roster. All stories that are in some way or another are connected to brands moving their marketing in-house.

Not only that but according to a recent poll of brands, 30% of marketers are “unsatisfied” with their current agency model. But why the unhappiness? Why are so many brands joining the revolution and moving their digital marketing in-house?

1. In-house media buying

Firstly, here’s a stat to get the heart racing: 90% of advertisers are looking to change how they buy programmatic ads. Wow! According to the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) of those 90%, they are either reviewing or resetting contracts. The reasons? To improve control and transparency.

Add to this another study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in 2017, which found that 35 percent of marketers surveyed have expanded their in-house programmatic media buying capabilities. (More than double the number from the ANA’s same survey a year earlier.) And the writing is on the wall for media buying agencies.

For example, international brands such as Kellogg and Netflix have brought programmatic buying in-house, citing the power to control their own data. For some this is a logical reaction. Brands are making it their business to see the data for themselves. Particularly, those companies frustrated at a lack of transparency from agencies.

What’s more by bringing media buying in-house it’s possible to make significant savings, and safeguard against rogue players. Plus, by using newly available ad-tech, managing, planning, and buying programmatically can become an internal competency.

Take-away: Media buying is moving in-house

2. Use and control first party data

Controlling first party data is one of the main benefits of in-house marketing. For a start it means your customer data is secure, which in a post-GDPR world is essential.  

It’s one of the reasons why language-learning company Rosetta Stone has its own internal team instead of an agency. Talking to Digiday, Caitlin Romig, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at Rosetta Stone explains the value of controlling brand data, in regards to how agencies interact with competitors. “It’s important that we’re not sharing that data outwardly with an agency that could potentially work with a competitor down the line”. While rare, there’s still the possibility that unscrupulous individuals could mishandle your customer data.

Moreover, in keeping control of your first party data opportunities arise. It means your in-house teams can optimise and deliver personalised messages to the right people, in the most appropriate manner. Performance-based marketing can easily be quantified, with successes and failures methodically analysed.

A clear and transparent understanding of advertising performance can be achieved thanks to in-house control. And few brands would disagree

Take-away: Controlling first party data is crucial for brands

3. Employ staff with the skills

But how do you make the most of this first party data? A critical element to consider going in-house is your personnel. Brands need the right people in order to make in-house digital marketing a success. You need capable workers with the right skills and attitudes to achieve your business’s digital marketing goals. All of which is easier said than done.

In fact, setting up your in-house team is by no means an easy option. Firstly, you need to find the staff with the right skills and knowledge. Then there’s the training. If you move programmatic in-house, then you better make sure you have staff capable of making it a success. Likewise, controlling first party data is great but if you can’t make the most of it then that’s profit lost in the long term.

However, don’t give up just yet! Recruiting the right staff is getting easier. There are now recruitment agencies purely focused on helping build in-house marketing teams. Then there’s ad-tech that helps facilitate in-house working. For example, creative management platforms (CMPs), make digital advertising easier for both small, and large, in-house teams.

It may be difficult but the results are worth it. In-house staff are immersed in your brand. They know your products, understand your markets, and are driven to perform for your brand, and only your brand. There is a shared vision from Developer to Chief Marketing Officer. They also provide your company with expertise that in the long-term will improve ad performance and save you budget.

Take-away: To make in-house work, you need the staff

4. Become agile and of the moment

The biggest bonus of having a well-rounded in-house team is agility. Rather than wait for an agency to respond to changes in market conditions; decisions are made and rapidly put into action by marketing teams. In a sense internal marketing teams are now moment marketers too, embracing more efficient agile ways of working. All thanks to in-house.

Improved workflows are key for agility. “It’s the old chestnut around agility. To get a more agile route to market, brands are doing it themselves”, explained Debbie Morrison, Director of Consultancy at ISBA to Marketing Week recently. Thanks to using an on-site agency, or an in-house team, brands have reactive capabilities like never before.

Plus, in a world that is more and more connected, advertising is becoming less about single campaigns, and more about keeping a message constantly updated. Whether that is through social channels, or display advertising campaigns. Embracing agile, improving workflows, and being able to update your advertising in real-time is now essential. And working in-house allows you to do just that.

Take-away: Marketing teams will become more agile

5. Embrace creative management platforms

Creative management platforms (CMPs) are ad-tech that make in-house a reality. They’re an example of how digital marketing is finding solutions to perform complex tasks – without relying on an external ad agency or manual processes.  A CMP is essentially a range of digital advertising technologies all rolled into one cloud-based platform. From online display, to DOOH, it’s now possible for a single team to produce all the digital formats they need.

In some ways, they act as an in-house facilitator for brands, reducing time, maximising production efficiency, and enabling better creative – all with full brand control. In hours it is possible to go from idea to design, from design to banner set, to live published campaign.

However, more premium CMPs are even more honed for in-house working. With in-platform features for translation management, external collaboration, and ad optimisation. Media buying is even an option with some platforms.

CMPs offer the transparency marketers are desperately craving.

Take-away: Creative management platforms are ideal for in-house

6. Agencies are set to evolve

Moving in-house will change the agency model too. It will not fix it, nor destroy it, instead, it will make agencies better. Agencies will once again seek to benefit the client, rather than obscure production processes for kickbacks and rebates.

There is a belief among some marketers that smaller specialised agencies have the most to benefit from the in-house movement. Why? Because they thrive on individual assignments and work per project.

Indeed, many of these agencies will perform select tasks that even the most advanced in-house teams cannot do. According to Quynh Mai, Founder at Moving Image & Content, “brands will start looking toward niche agencies who really understand their craft and have deep expertise”. If you want a kick-ass video ad, it’s still likely an agency is still your best bet.

And the thing is… it’s already happening. Big brands like Nike and Pernod Ricard are using in-house teams to buy media, and control different advertising channels. While agencies are being asked to do what they do best: which is to produce remarkable creative and formulate potential campaign strategies.

Take-away: Agencies may shift to a project focus

7. The long term benefits are worth it

Perhaps, the greatest benefit the move to in-house marketing will provide is clear and universal metrics. Currently, brands which use multiple agencies run the gauntlet of understanding different and varied performance standards. Not only that but they have no clear idea as to the hard analytical decisions behind programmatic buying.

Indeed, a client’s understanding of viewability might be very different from that of their agency. Which in terms of transparency and performance is awful.

Brands with large in-house teams are leading the metrics revolt. Already brands such as P&G, Unilever, and L’Oreal are devising their own viewability standards, believing it to be “a critical topic to improving our effectiveness”.

Being able to understand standards across markets, in-house, and via an agency, is a necessity in understanding ad performance. The result will be an end to the traditional way of media buying, with all media channels sold through exchange systems that share the same, stable cross-currency metrics.

It’s likely that brands will finally have a clear understanding of where their ads are served and their actual performance. Bannerflow Product Owner, Björn Karlström hits the nail on the head: “you need to know where your banners are served. And you need to know where your money is spent in the ad tech chain”. Indeed, without clear metric data, your media budget is out of control and you cannot make well-founded decisions.

Brands are moving in-house and they want clearer metrics. This will lead to transparency, a reduction in ad fraud, and greater brand safety. These are important long term benefits.

Take-away: Greater transparency will lead to defined metrics

In-house digital marketing is the future

It may not happen right away but the shift to in-house is happening. As Mark Ritson writes, “big clients, the 20% of advertisers who pay for 70% of the world’s advertising, will use their scale and size to bring their buying in-house”.

And where they go, the rest will follow.

A simple choice

Ultimately, moving your brand’s digital marketing in-house is a choice. The size of your business, your budget, your products, all are key motivators. There’s also the changing role of agencies, and more agile ways of working to consider. All of which will affect your decision.

What is clear is that having the knowledge and the technology to make in-house a success is going to be key. Use a creative management platform and you have an ad-tech platform that’s enables complete in-house digital advertising. Plus, with new technologies being developed for in-house media buying, the future is clearer still.

The bottom line is the revolution in-house is here to stay.

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