In-Housing Is Supplementing, Not Replacing, Media Agencies

Anyone who is unsure about where in-housing is taking the agency relationship might find research released today helpful, or at least somewhat helpful.

The research lands on the same day a top Pepsi executive has told delegates at a London conference that in-housing is not scary, and that it's all about upskilling people and looking past any short-term fears they may have.

The survey of 200 marketers comes from media advisory firm MediaSense, and is a mixed bag for media agencies, which ultimately provides reassurance that brands may be changing the relationship, but they are not ending it.

On the one hand we have the big standout figure that two in three are looking to reorganise their internal capabilities, and that 59% will be bringing more media duties in-house. Nearly two in three, at 61%, are reviewing their media agency model. 

However, behind the top-line figures, when we move beyond top-line thinking and delve down to the coal face, the numbers drop. Just over one in four, at 27%, are thinking of carrying out their own programmatic campaigns and 17% are looking at buying their own media in-house. These are aspirations, rather than those who are actually going through a plan to turn thoughts into deeds.

So there is an overall push to bring some media functions in-house, but when it comes down to actually planning and buying campaigns, the numbers drop.

This actually tallies with conversations I've been having with some senior agency executives who are reporting that in-housing is not quite as huge a problem as some might like to think. Sure, some functions -- particularly around comms and content -- are going in-house, and some of the leading and running of media campaigns is being handled more proactively in-house. 

However, the general feedback, to me, has been that this is a lot of the "grunt" work -- the day-to-day digging away at the coal face that does not have as massive an impact on media agencies as the headlines might sometimes suggest.

The reasons for hiring a media agency are still there -- access to expertise, strategic thinking, and of course, huge discounts and access to premium media. Plus, there is the data a major agency will have on audiences and how best to reach them.

Thus, although nearly two in three brands surveyed intend to review their media agency arrangements, none of those surveyed are saying they will ditch a media agency altogether.

One potential additional reason is that the majority of the brands surveyed report difficulty in hiring people with the right skill set -- which, one would imagine, makes it a lot easier to rely on the expertise a media agency already possesses. 

So the research would seem to confirm the message that is coming back from the media agencies that in-housing is happening, and it is on the rise.

However, only a minority of brands are considering buying their own media and executing their own programmatic campaigns. 

Whether some of the work that is being in-housed at the moment -- and the upskilling that it taking place -- will lead to more valuable work being taken away from agencies is debatable.

Right now, this research and conversations I've been having suggest the lower-skilled "grunt" work is being increasingly done in-house, but the bigger strategic picture and informed media buying is still the preserve of the media agency. 

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