Before beginning the in-housing journey, a robust review of the operating model is needed, with priorities set around digital transformation and customer experience. Alongside this, CMOs must explain the proposed changes to all stakeholders, highlighting the benefits of making changes. Without buy-in from these stakeholders, any planned changes are likely to fall flat.
Value creation must be at the heart of the plans, rather than simply cost-saving. The best change programme will look at both the efficiencies that can be achieved by lowering costs and the effectiveness of bringing more value in.
The biggest thing to be kept in mind is that bringing digital marketing in-house doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Every company should in-house different amounts of their search, social, programmatic, and addressable media depending on their needs. And this is why a hybrid approach makes the most strategic sense. This provides cross-vertical insights that can give a brand the leg-up over competitors, while offering a brand ‘real’ savings.
A well-implemented tech stack requires due diligence and it’s critical to map the strategy to owned, earned, and paid channels, while ensuring the customer is at the centre of the plans.
One thing that brands may need to factor into their decision to in-house is that agencies are focusing more on making their teams leaner and more efficient, as opposed to expanding their tech offerings. As a result, this shift has the potential to lead to frustration amongst brands and a stronger desire to solve their media challenges in-house.
An increasing number of organisations are investing in customer data management – whether that’s data management platforms (DMPs), customer data platforms (CDPs), or a combination of the two. DMPs were designed to work with third-party cookies. They collect and organise data and then enable targeting of audiences by connecting audience segments to DSPs. CDPs, on the other hand, use what is effectively first-party data, collecting said data from online and offline sources and matching each to a single customer profile.
Both offer benefits and it’s up to a brand to consider what is driving sales and customer engagements to figure out the best approach.
Often there is no need for these roles to be fulfilled full-time, presenting a further benefit to working with an external partner. External partners can do the heavy lifting while bringing in learnings from other companies and sectors and have scalable data stores at their disposal. And they also tend to have better access to pilot opportunities with key data, inventory, and measurement solutions.
It’s equally worth considering working with a consultancy initially before committing to an in-house data science function.
For some brands, the in-housing journey means realigning to achieve synergy between their strategic visions and cultures. A big part of developing this synergy is attracting the right talent and then retaining it over the long-term.
A key to talent retention is the encouragement to continue upskilling. Transformation is continuous and in-house teams have to stay abreast of industry developments. At the same time, the risk of relying solely on an in-house team to do all the work can be offset by working with external partners to fill the gaps.
The past year has brought more attention to the support, retention, and recruitment of talent and, in many ways, the shift to working from home has opened the door to making it easier for businesses to manage the retention and recruitment aspects of their talent strategy.
When identifying talent, brands must consider experience level, training budget, geographic location, and culture-fit. Finding the necessary experience can be costly, as can upskilling new and existing talent and potentially paying for someone to relocate.
These potential costs – and complexities – can be avoided by adopting a hybrid model, where some talent is not required 100% of the time or strategic input can be brought in when necessary.
However, the existing remote working environment, which is likely to continue at least partly in the same fashion, does also present the opportunity to seek out the best talent from around the world without having to fork out huge amounts of money to move them closer to work.
An eMarketer study found that when UK and US marketers were asked, ‘How, if in any way, has remote working impacted your perception of in-housing digital marketing?’, only 29% responded negatively. This shows that the opportunity and desire to right-house is going significantly as a result of the new emphasis on remote working.
Ultimately, it’s about striking a balance between immediately accessible full-time talent and external expertise.
We’ve already discussed some of the issues around potential costs and the importance of value. Advertisers should pursue an efficient solution which maximises ROI – whether fully in-house, fully out-sourced, or a hybrid of the two.
Overall, brands must look to deliver on their promise to consumers and seek increased agility and improved integration between owned and paid channels.
Strategic partnerships mean smarter media buying, more ad spend going toward working media, and enable brands to take ownership of their tech stack and the data and visibility within them. As a result, brands have more control of their data while the work is outsourced.
An example of a successful hybrid in-housing model is HMD, the owner of the Nokia license. Control v. Exposed acts as a co-pilot within the model. HMD’s marketing team can oversee and control aspects of its media buying, while benefiting from direct technology vendor contracts with the likes of Google, Facebook, and DSPs, and having ownership of the commercial relationship and data.
Nonetheless, marketers must compare the costs and risks associated with in-housing. Often, brands will find that agencies have superior buying power and unrivalled expertise without paying over the odds. But there is no single right path to in-housing and everything from adtech to third-party technologies should be taken into account when working out the associated costs.
There are four broad models for brands to consider:
- Having ownership of vendor contracts and control over whom the brand works with, but the agency is responsible for planning and execution.
- Outsourcing components of marketing strategy but some activities remain in-house.
- Only outsourcing one-off needs with no long-term partnership.
- Having full control of addressable media tech stack
After the year we’ve all had, it can be tempting for brands to do anything they can to cut costs, but the belief that fully in-housing is always the solution is a myth. Marketers must take a more nuanced approach to their planning and strategy around in-housing and, in most cases, this will likely result in realising a hybrid approach is the best course of action.