In-house agencies are increasingly on the rise, swiping all facets of advertising work historically handled by traditional shops including creative, strategy, media, social, production, influencer marketing, experiential efforts—everything. So much so, according to a new report from the Association of National Advertisers, that it seems to be a trend far too pervasive for any external agency to ignore.
Today, the ANA released findings from a survey of its member brand marketers—78 percent of which reported that they now have some form of in-house operations, compared to 58 percent in 2013 when the ANA last researched this topic and 42 percent in 2008. For 44 percent of survey respondents, those operations have been established within the last five years.
Additionally, nearly all respondents (90 percent) said the workload of their in-house agencies has increased within just one year—65 percent of them noted in the report that it has increased “a lot” while another 25 percent said it has grown “a little.” The study showed that 58 percent of respondents reported that more than half of all of their marketing efforts are done in-house.
Verizon chief creative officer Andrew McKechnie added in a statement that his company’s in-house agency launched in 2017 and today “is crucial to the customer experience across all touch points—mobile, digital, retail, etc.”
“This report makes clear that the work being done by in-house agencies is no longer confined to ‘low-hanging fruit’ such as collateral/promotional materials and internal videos,” ANA CEO Bob Liodice said in a statement. “Traditional agencies are becoming increasingly challenged as marketers move more work in-house while encouraging their external agencies to provide differentiated services and increased value.”
Liodice said the ANA expects these trends to continue.
Within only the last three years, 70 percent of ANA members surveyed moved work from an external agency to an in-house operation, namely in content marketing, social media and influencer marketing (which are considered specialty services). Content marketing is the top specialty service most often taken in-house with 60 percent of that work shifted from external agencies over the last three years, while 44 percent of influencer marketing and 40 percent of data and marketing analytics moved in-house in that time period, according to the report.
In total, 75 percent of survey respondents said in 2018 their content marketing is handled in-house, compared to 34 percent in 2013.
Media planning and buying duties, especially programmatic, continues to move in-house in waves due to the ANA’s troubling 2016 transparency report, plus cost efficiencies (which was the primary factor cited by respondents for taking work in-house). Over the last three years, 26 percent of programmatic buying shifted from external agencies.
Media planning and buying services to some degree is handled in-house by a total of 55 percent of survey respondents.
Belinda Smith, director of global media activation at Electronic Arts, said in a statement that handling programmatic duties in-house allows for “greater control over campaigns” in terms of how they are “set up, managed and measured.”
“Cost efficients are important for in-house agencies,” Wayne Barringer, director of creative services at the Boeing Co., added in a statement. “But they are not the silver bullet. Why? Because most external agencies aren’t chosen because they’re the cheapest—they have superpowers. We should emphasize our superpowers more.”
These “superpowers” or strengths of in-house agencies cited by those surveyed include “better knowledge of brands, speed and nimbleness and institutional knowledge.”
The report shows 79 percent of respondents are satisfied with the work their in-house teams are producing. A total of 50 percent of survey respondents said they have in-house teams totaling more than 25 staffers.
External agencies shouldn’t fret too much though as the ANA study shows there is still a place for them in the industry—90 percent of respondents said they still employ outside agency partners.
These agencies just need to be adaptable to change. Procter & Gamble, for example, became the first brand in April to create a dedicated unit for its North America Fabric Care business that pulled from multiple holding companies including WPP’s Grey, Omnicom’s Hearts & Science and Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi.
“We need our people closer to the consumers they serve,” P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard said in a statement. “And we need fewer project managers and more brand entrepreneurs. This means renewed partnerships to work with agencies, not through agencies. We’ll pay for what creates the most value for consumers and discern what work should be done by our people versus agency people.”
The 2018 ANA survey was sent to 412 of its client-side members in August without the organization having prior knowledge of whether they had an in-house agency.