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In-housing is more popular than ever, but a digital brain drain could threaten adoption

The demand for in-housing digital capabilities could be stymied by a brain drain, a new survey suggests. / Semevent

49% of UK marketers and 40% of their US compatriots are planning to move digital in-house, according to digital marketing in-housing specialist, Serpico by Croud and Censuswide.But this trend may be slowed by labour shortages within the sector, with more than half of the survey's respondents admitting they lost in-house digital talent amid the events of the Covid-19 pandemic.57% have lost talent to redundancies, 43% to furlough and 35% as individuals quit their roles in natural churn. Serpico surveyed 210 senior digital marketing decision-makers in the UK and US in September 2020 to arrive at its findings.

An in-house talent crisis?

  • Serpico‘s survey raises more questions than it answers, principally how brands can retain their in-house digital talent.

  • Larger firms have been disproportionately affected by the brain drain, with 61% of marketing firms with between 250 and 500 employees losing talent.

  • 39% of UK marketers said that accessing the right talent was the single biggest barrier to in-housing digital marketing.

  • Other hindrances include the potential for more budget cuts, blamed by 38%, and the difficulty of scaling company culture to an extended team – cited by 35%.

  • To counter these issues 29% of respondents intend to enlist the support of an agency to realise their in-house goals while 20% plan to move in the opposite direction and discontinue agency support altogether.

  • A mere 12% of those quizzed reported that they would in-house less in future and rely solely on agency support.

The bigger picture

  • Major brands such as Vodafone have been gradually drawing their digital and media requirements in-house for some time now, as part of a ‘blended‘ strategy which still relies on agency talent.

  • Covid-19 has proven to be a further spur to adoption with the proportion of multinationals now relying on in-house creative talent standing at 57%, as brands seek more fleet-footed responses to a rapidly evolving marketplace.

  • Ben Knight, chief executive officer and co-founder of Serpico by Croud, said: “With the pandemic catapulting digital development five years ahead of schedule, ownership of data has never been more important for brand marketers, as is the need to have in-house experts to make sense of it all. Additionally, a recession acts as a catalyst for change, with brands taking a step back to review activity.“

  • Mindful of the many pitfalls, such as scaling company culture in a work-from-home environment, Knight recommended: “Brands should look to work with partners that can help mitigate risk and scale resources up and down with ease.”

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