Brands Grow More Sophisticated With In-Housing Strategies

Nearly 70% of brands have at least partially in-housed their programmatic practices, IAB survey finds

Among U.S. brands, 69% have either fully or partially in-housed programmatic. IAB
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Brands are in-housing programmatic media buying more often, but many have also reverted course.

Nearly 70% of brands in the U.S., Europe and Latin America have at least partially in-housed programmatic media buying, according to a recent survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), up from 65% in 2018.



However, 16% of brands are outsourcing programmatic buying back to agency partners, up from 13% in 2018. One notable example of this is cosmetics giant Coty, which partnered with media agency Zenith as part of an overhaul to its internal ad-tech and media buying practice last December.

Orchid Richardson, vp and head of the IAB Programmatic+Data Center, said brands are beginning “to recognize what their expertise is” and find strategic agency partners.

“When we first did the story in 2018, it was almost as if we felt like brands were abandoning their relationships with their agency partners and trying to bring everything in-house. Now, they have become much more strategic about it, so the agency clearly has a place in the in-housing relationship, whether it is to … help develop the programmatic strategy or to bring in that expertise,” said Richardson.


The survey covered 1,600 U.S. brands and 200 brands in Latin America and the European Union, excluding the U.K. The survey concluded in March, before the height of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

In-housing programmatic removes one step of the media buying equation, which lowers costs for brands and, in some cases, increases transparency. A recent report from the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers found that agencies take roughly 7% in fees, while 15% of programmatic media dollars cannot be attributed.

“It’s an issue of transparency. We had a contract through our agency, but they didn’t have a transparent programmatic offering. Without transparency, we can’t improve ad effectiveness,” said one CPG executive in the report.

Whether in-housing or not, brands are finding that regulations such as GDPR have had some positive effects. Seventy-one percent of respondents at least somewhat agreed that data quality has improved since Europe’s digital privacy law was enacted two years ago, while 68% have seen fraudulent traffic reduce over that same time period.


Andrew Blustein is a programmatic reporter at Adweek.