Modern Marketing Agency Models

Frustrated with agencies, CMOs say bringing media buying in-house is back on the agenda

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

November 30, 2021 | 5 min read

As brands get their marketing back on track post-pandemic, marketers say in-housing media is taking priority. And they want more help from agencies to achieve it.

in-housing media

In-housing media is back on the agenda for big brands

A report from digital consultancy Kepler made harsh reading for media agencies. It involved over 150 senior marketers from leading brands across FMCG, automotive, retail and finance.

Over half of marketers surveyed cited one of their key challenges as managing and optimizing relationships with tech platforms such as Facebook and Google. Yet a third don’t believe their media agencies have strong enough relationships with the major tech platforms.

For the vast majority of marketers (85%) data optimization, rather than media buying clout, was the most important factor driving media investment and 89% said those capabilities would decide the agencies they work with. Yet 65% stated that ‘traditional media agencies do not have the technology expertise that their organizations require,’ while a further 61% said that ‘media agency talent and operating models are not evolving fast enough’ to meet their needs.

Two-thirds of marketers (66%) who took part in the study said that ‘media agencies are falling behind clients in terms of technology.’

In-housing media (if agencies will help)

Against this backdrop of dissatisfaction, marketers are once again turning to in-housing of media buying.

Half of brands (52%) are considering taking all aspects of their media investment capability in-house. The report found it was larger enterprises that appear more committed to in-housing, with 63% of marketers from $10bn+ revenue companies saying they plan to eventually in-house all media buying.

Bringing media talent out of agencies and into a brand’s organization has risen up the scale of priorities, with around 40% of marketers now citing it as a challenge they are addressing.

“Taken as a whole, this data suggests a significant movement in brands’ priorities away from simple media buying and trading toward the more hands-on challenges of in-housing and building relationships with the tech platforms,” the report said.

The study shone a light on the fact that though brands want to move more media buying in-house, they are dependent on their agencies to help them achieve it and impatience is growing with those unwilling to help.

More than half (53%) of the report’s marketers said that they use ‘agencies to embed their talent within their own organizations,’ while a futher 43% are using agencies to develop in-house media technology.

At the moment, most brands have adopted a hybrid approach, with 69% of those surveyed using a ‘mixture of in-house media technology and talent as well as external agency support.’

Half (47%) said their media agency partners could improve on ‘sharing learnings and consulting’ with in-house teams, while 43% said their agencies need to improve on ‘giving a clearer picture of digital media performance.’

More than a third (37%) of marketers surveyed do not feel their agencies provide technical support to power their in-house marketing and media. Meanwhile a similar proportion (36%) said their agencies ‘are not providing strategic guidance to help plan for the future.’

Reluctance from agencies to support brands in their in-housing endeavors could cost them, with many marketers now determining which agency they will work with based on their ability to work well with in-house teams. 78% said ‘a talent and trading model that will flex around our in-house operations’ was a capability they would look for in future partners.

“Brands are adopting different media operating models to suit their requirements,” said Kelper. “Our study reinforces the fact that in-housing media investment is an established trend and media agencies must adapt their talent mix and business models fast to keep pace with market needs.”

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