We believe in the power and opportunity of in-house marketing. And we believe more and more brands will choose to in-house as much as they can over the next 5-10 years. It’s part of why Rival is a consultancy focused on developing in-house teams and strategy, not an advertising agency doing outsourced work for them.
In-housing vs outsourcing has a long, varied history in the marketing industry. We’ve seen macro cycles and micro cycles that fluctuate between both, and the specifics of the business and preferences of the CMO have a lot to do with it as well. But it does seem like the last 5-10 years have seen a more consistent march towards in-housing, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down or cycling back.
A recent survey by Gartner of over 400 CMOs found that “29% of work previously handled by agencies has moved in-house in the past year.” That’s almost a third in just the past year! It’s hard to ignore a stat like that and when we look around at the corners of the industry we work in, we likely all see anecdotal evidence of this happening. More hires being made for in-house teams, more briefs going away from agencies, more investment being made in capability development internally.
It’s not always easy though. There’s a reason so many CMOs look for outsourced support. Maybe they can’t find or attract the right talent internally, maybe there’s a certain specialised expertise they need, or maybe their P&L just won’t support more full-time employees. The realities of each business will dictate what’s possible between in-housing and outsourcing, but there are major competitive advantages to be gained from in-housing as much as possible.
Here are the three big ones for us
- Speed of Execution. We talk a lot about how speed is the biggest advantage start-ups have over established businesses. Speed lets you realise new opportunities and avoid new risks faster and more fully. It can be hard to point to the short-term costs or losses associated with moving slowly, but they really add up over time. Having your resources all in-house means you move faster with them. Internal teams will move faster than external teams as they’ll be more cohesive, more connected, and more communicative.
- Integration between Creative and Media. People working well together is what makes any business that’s bigger than a one man/woman band grow. But some “joints” of the marketing function hold more opportunity and risk than others. Creative and media were split out from traditional marketing functions and advertising agencies over a half century ago with the rise to prominence of TV advertising. The creative wasn’t impacted or informed all that much by the media plan,so they could be split into separate teams and eventually separate agencies all together. (The big ad agencies also saw an opportunity to make more money, which was a big driver of this disaggregation!). But in today’s digital-first world, the creative and media are intensely interconnected. Where you place your marketing has a big impact on the type of creative that will work in those channels. Creative and media should be as integrated as possible, which means either integrating them within one agency partner (and we’re seeing more and more of these integrated shops emerging) or ideally integrating them in-house.
- More, deeper insights and collective learning. How much and how quickly you learn is much more important than how smart you are at any given time. This is true for us as individuals, but also true for the teams and organisations we work for. Fast, frequent learning in their teams should be an explicit objective for any CMO, and you can learn so much more if your team is doing the work themselves vs having an external partner do it for them.
In-housing isn’t always possible for everything. And in some cases, especially when it comes to one-off injections of specialised expertise, it might not even be advised. Every business has its own specific realities they need to address – what’s right for your situation will depend on many factors. But overall this trend towards in-housing will continue…and the businesses that can do it well will be able to drive faster, more sustainable growth for their businesses, in large part because of those three reasons above.