Cars.com Is the Latest to Take Digital Media Buying—Including Programmatic—In-House

Longtime AOR OMD Chicago will lose some portions of the business

Cars.com will retain OMD to handle offline buying duties.
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Chicago-based Cars.com, the online site that connects consumers to car sellers, is now the latest company to bring its digital media buying in-house.

Duties that were taken in-house include paid social, typical display work, digital and programmatic buying, according to Jenny Chan, senior director of consumer marketing management and reporting at Cars.com. That work was previously handled by OMD’s Chicago office, which has been the company’s lead media agency for 15 years. OMD will retain its planning plus offline media buying duties, Chan added.

OMD could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Chan told Adweek that the shift was completed in October—the same month the Association of National Advertisers released a study that showed 78 percent of marketers now have some sort of in-house operations. It also revealed that 26 percent of programmatic buying has gone in-house over the last three years.

“There are a lot of good reasons for doing this,” Chan noted, including having greater control over consumer data and ad placement, building stronger relationships with media partners like Google and Facebook and being “more nimble and responsive” to consumers and clients (the car dealers advertising on the company’s site).

The move will also help Cars.com get closer to its creative work “from conception to completion,” according to Chan. R/GA Chicago is the company’s creative agency of record.

Chan said Cars.com has been working with Google over the last several months to build its tech stack and unlock creative opportunities through consumer data. The company specifically tapped YouTube to help ideate its August ad campaign done in collaboration with R/GA, “The Moment We Met,” that positioned the Cars.com brand as a dating service-esque matchmaker, she added.

Cars.com spent nearly $50 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2017 and $38.5 million in the first half of this year, according to Kantar Media.

Cars.com is the latest of an increasing number of brands to take media efforts in-house since the ANA released its 2016 report exposing the secret kickbacks and rebates most U.S. media agencies were collecting from publishers. Another recent example is GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), which took the more critical planning aspect of the media business in-house as part of a recent review.

While media agencies work to reestablish trust with clients, many of their executives have panned the in-housing trend, saying it’s both “overblown” and unsustainable. Those media agency execs that have seen clients take programmatic specifically in-house told Adweek recently that, on average, they come back to them for help managing it within a six-month to two-year period.

Only time will tell where the pendulum of media work will ultimately swing.

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