Finding in-house media talent is now a top concern for marketers

Marketers hunt in-house media talent

Finding talent to bolster in-house media capabilities was cited as one of the top concerns among marketers last year, according to research from ID Comms.

The outcome of the study was a surprise, given that just two years earlier marketers had said that their priority was ensuring they had the best agency talent working on their business.

However, with an increasing number of advertisers experimenting with some kind of in-housing model those priorities have shifted and now, nearly one-in-five (19%) chief marketing officers have stated that there is a need for greater internal talent investment.

“The quality at agency-side is a thin bench unless you are a top account,” said one unnamed client-side respondent.

The renewed focus reflects a shift in attitudes over the last two years. When the same question was asked in 2016, the top issue for 29% of marketers was the quality of agency talent. This year, that has fallen to 18.5%.

From Arla and Renault to Unilever, P&G and RBS – marketers are all experimenting with various iterations of an 'in-house' model. A study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in the US last year suggested some 78% of marketers had an internal set-up, a rise from 58% in 2013 and from 42% in 2008.

Last month Arla brought all of its media and creative capabilities under an internal agency brand called The Barn. It also revealed it had “centralised” its programmatic buying into a hub within Carat Amsterdam, though the goal for the end of 2019 is to also have moved all of that in-house.

“Brands are under more pressure to act quickly, be present and optimise more in-flight. That's rapidly transformed the whole marketing process so we needed a more agile model where media and content come together,” said Thomas Heilskov, global head of digital marketing and innovation, of the motivations.

For P&G and Unilever, doing more with less marketing spend it the goal of its in-housing efforts. P&G has been ruthless in its cull of global advertising agencies as it experiments with a new in-house model while FMCG rival Unilever has sought to cut ad spend by pumping more work through its internal shop U-Studio.

Renault, meanwhile, has admitted that it will never be able to find – or retain – the talent to run an in-house agency so has set up a hybrid model that will see its media and creative shops, Omnicom’s OMD and Publicis respectively, “merged” into one and staffed with more of the car marque’s own marketing team. Both will work to the same set of KPIs and be led by a client-side chief operating officer.

However, the ID Comms report – which was based on 129 responses from advertisers spending a combined $10bn in media – suggested that in particular, brands have invested more in in-house media planning roles, with capabilities having risen by 6% in the two years since 2016.

“One reason for the greater emphasis on in-house talent is not just the industry debate around transparency, but the realisation that as media gets higher on the corporate agenda, marketers’ in-house teams often don’t have a complete grip on many of the issues thrown up by the shift to digital and biddable media buying, said Susy Pyzer-Knapp, a consultant at ID Comms.

Despite the rush to in-house, the report stated that confidence in internal talent being able to meet the evolving marketing needs within a company has diminished, with only 14% of all respondents having high and very high confidence, compared to 22% in 2016.

“Smart marketers and procurement teams have been talking constantly in the last two years about the need to boost their in-house understanding of how media works. This research highlights that many have taken the first steps in that process but also that there is still much work to be done,” said Pyzer-Knapp.

When agency respondents were asked whether internal advertiser media talent sufficiently met their current media needs, the vast majority said it did not. This has improved slightly since 2016, however, 74% of them still believed it was not sufficient.

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