Many organizations have chosen in-house media planning and buying operations in recent years as in-housing can generate some significant benefits, such as added transparency, control, and brand safety.
In-housing isn’t right for every organization, however, and to help you determine if you should stick with an agency or bring things in-house, this article will explain everything you need to consider before making the move.
What Do I Need to Do to Set up In-Housing?
First, it’s critical that you determine which specific media you want to in-house as certain channels lend themselves to being outsourced and others make much more sense to take direct control over.
Second, it’s important to understand how in-housing will impact your media planning and buying costs as some parts of the process could become less expensive while others could inflate rapidly when you attempt to do it yourself.
Finally, you’ll need to put together a plan for your hiring strategy and options because in-housing your media is almost certainly going to require expanding your marketing team.
Should I In-House Everything or Just a Portion of My Marketing?
You don’t have to in-house everything to gain the advantages of control and added transparency. In fact, many organizations have chosen to approach media strategy using a hybrid model that keeps parts of the effort in-house while relying on third-party agencies, freelancers, or consultants to handle certain portions of the media process.
Your media in-housing strategy should reflect your organization’s specific strengths, weaknesses, and needs, and we suggest in-housing only those parts of the process that your team handles best first and then evaluating other options down the line.
Which Parts of the Media Process Are Easiest to In-House?
One of the safest ways to in-house your media is to bring only portions of the work under your roof at any given time, which allows your team to adapt to the change, adjust to the new workload, and ensure that there’s at least some consistency in your marketing efforts.
While some parts of the media process lend themselves to being in-housed, you’ll want to consider assigning other tasks to an external agency, freelancer, or consultant for reasons of complexity, costs, and logistics.
To be sure that your in-housing strategy produces optimal results, we suggest you take direct control over certain parts of the process first, test the results, and then look at other in-housing options based on how well your team is performing.
Here are the portions of the media process you should consider in-housing first:
- Overarching Media Strategy: While advertising agencies should have a seat at the table in determining your strategy, the big picture and overarching media strategy should come from an in-house team that’s analyzing long-term performance.
- Budgeting and Financial Planning: Agencies can help with the budgeting process by making suggestions on how and where to allocate spends, but your in-house team should have direct control over the full media budget.
- Direct Platform Partnerships: There may be significant benefits to in-housing contractual relationships as dealing with media owners directly will improve transparency, providing you with much better control and allowing you to avoid added costs.
- Data Ownership: Whatever data your campaigns produce should be owned by your in-house team, not an agency. It’s fine to use an agency to help store, manage, and interpret the data, but you’ll certainly want to retain ownership of it at all times.
- Branding Direction: You can ask for help with branding strategies—that’s what creative agencies are for, after all—but the branding buck should stop with someone situated in-house who can decide what’s best for your long-term objectives, what sounds authentic, and what truly reflects the spirit and soul of your brand.
Once you’ve attained mastery over the media pieces outlined above, you’ll want to think about in-housing these slightly more complex processes:
- Attribution Strategy: An in-house team may not have the experience needed to develop a sophisticated, fully comprehensive attribution strategy, depending on how complex your KPIs are, so we suggest considering this carefully before in-housing it.
- Audience Segmentation: Advertising agencies are absolute experts at performing audience segmentation because of their access to technology, data, and research and their detailed experience across channels and markets. This is a process that may require at least some collaboration; fully in-housing could lead to reduced performance.
- Data Strategy: While you certainly need to own your data, advertising agencies have access to technology that allows for advanced data collection and analysis, testing, and reporting, and employ experts whose entire role is to determine data strategy. So, this is another area that you may want to continue to outsource.
- Technology Strategy: Modern marketing technologies aren’t simple, and it may be useful to leave your tech stack strategy outsourced as long as you believe you’re receiving enough transparency from your media partner. If you do choose to in-house this part of the process, it is best to at least start with the standard tech strategy already in place and then test incremental adjustments to ensure things don’t go horribly wrong.
- Execution: With recent advances in technology, especially in automation, the execution side of the media business has grown increasingly simpler and easier to in-house. You’ll want to consider bringing this work on board if your team is capable of handling your tech stack and overcoming any challenges that may arise.
Finally, there are certain parts of the media process that you may want to keep outsourced regardless of how capable your internal team becomes, including:
- Advertising Technology: There’s no reason to develop your own custom tools and solutions because there are affordable, licensable technology platforms available for much lower costs.
- Testing and Development: Agencies have the best resources available in terms of research, testing capabilities, and keeping an eye on the overarching media market, including trends, new strategies, and tactics and developments outside of your specific vertical and chosen media channels. While your team needs to keep up with their own research and optimization efforts, agencies can be invaluable partners by constantly scanning the horizon to watch out for the next big thing your brand needs.
- Performance Auditing: It’s not possible to do a great job auditing your own work, so if you want to get a holistic, realistic assessment of how well your team is performing, you may simply have to leave this part of the media process outsourced.
What does it Cost to In-House?
When you consider the costs of in-housing, you’ll need to take three critical factors into account:
- Salaries (and Overhead)
If you’re planning to in-house digital media for a $1M to $3M annual media spend, for example, you’d likely need the following:
- Media Planner/Buyer — Average salary including overhead: $100,000
- Paid Search Specialist — Average salary including overhead: $90,000
- Social Media Specialist — Average salary including overhead: $70,000
- Ad Operations/Trafficking — Average salary including overhead: $60,000
- Billing — Average salary including overhead for 30% timeshare: $25,000
This comes to a total annual expense of $345,000 in salaries and overhead alone compared to an average agency fee of between 12 and 15 percent of the spend.
Software costs can be considerable, especially if you’re forced to fund a series of software solutions for only one organization’s efforts:
- Reporting Solution: Average of $1,500 per month
- Optimization Platform: $2,000 per month
- Media Buying Platform: $4,000 per month
That’s a total monthly software cost of around $7,500 compared to a cost of $0 when working with an agency.
Research is vital to ensuring optimal media efficiency, but it isn’t cheap.
This is an area where working with an agency can provide significant cost savings because agencies are able to significantly reduce the cost of critical research by spreading those costs across a wide range of clients.
If you need to license all of your own research for a single organization, the costs can become quite excessive:
- Annual Subscriptions: $10,000 per month
That’s an annual cost of around $120,000 compared to a cost of $0 when working with an agency.
What are the Benefits of In-Housing?
In-housing offers several important benefits, each of which is a potentially valid reason to consider pulling your media from external parties and bringing it all under your own roof, including:
- Added Control: One of the biggest benefits of in-housing is the ability to take direct control over every part of your media process, from strategy to planning and from buying and trafficking to reporting. Your team will own and control each part of the process that you in-house.
- Improved Transparency: There’s no question that in-housing your media will provide more transparency for your marketing performance. Instead of having to rely on an external party to provide you with data, reports, analyses, etc., your team will have direct access to every single part of the campaign that they manage.
- Potential Cost Savings: Depending on how much you’re spending, what you choose to in-house, and what those in-house costs are, you could end up saving a considerable amount of money by in-housing your media. This depends on your specific circumstances, however, and needs to be carefully considered.
What are the Downsides of In-Housing?
In-housing isn’t always the best option as even when it does go smoothly, there are drawbacks to taking direct control over your media process, including:
- Reliance on Limited Resources: Your in-house marketing team is likely to be substantially smaller than the crew provided by an external agency partner(s), which could make it difficult to keep up with the volume of tasks required for modern media operations.
- Ongoing Education: This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of outsourcing your media to an agency; agencies have entire teams whose job it is to watch the horizon and scout new strategies, tactics, marketing channels, technology platforms, and software solutions that could make your campaigns more effective. If you bring everything in-house, it’s highly likely that your streamlined team will be so focused on execution that there simply won’t be much time for ongoing education.
Which Media Channels Are Easiest to Bring In-House?
When you think about in-housing media channels, some are certainly easier to take control over than others, and our suggestion is to bring social content and communications onboard first because your own people are the best voice for your business.
If you’re going to attempt to stay in-house, we suggest starting with the following channels:
- Paid Social Media Marketing: This is a no-brainer because your team will definitely be the best option for providing an accurate and authentic voice for your brand. Recent developments in paid social have made it far easier to automate than ever before, and because everything can be completed on the same platform, this channel has become much easier to in-house.
- Paid Search Marketing: This is another relatively straightforward media channel where everything can be completed on the same platform and where recent advances in automation have made huge strides in improving performance, especially with Google Ads.
- Strategy: Your overarching media strategy should be directed by your internal team as your employees know your brand best and understand your long-term goals and objectives.
- Reporting/Dashboards: Some agencies do a great job with reporting by providing excellent live dashboards full of important KPIs, but your internal team can probably handle the process themselves. They can format reporting and dashboards exactly as needed by your executives and ensure that the proper KPIs, data, and explanations are produced to ensure that all stakeholders fully understand what’s going on with your media campaigns.
Get Help Deciding What to In-House with MatrixPoint
MatrixPoint is prepared to help you determine the right in-house media strategy by reviewing your current efforts, resources, and needs and building a plan that’s sure to provide you with optimal marketing results.