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Whether or not to inhouse is a pertinent topic for all CMOs

Should new businesses inhouse media planning and buying?

Why are new, high growth businesses questioning whether they need the specialist expertise of an agency? In a media landscape that has undergone a seismic shift, 51% of global digital ad spend is invested in the Facebook and Google duopoly. The resultant reach and data available make it possible for brands to disintermediate specialist media agencies and buy advertising directly on these platforms. As other digital players such as Amazon and Pinterest have followed suit with the launch of auction-based ad buying platforms, building a scaled digital marketing operation in house is entirely feasible. This opportunity to inhouse is highly seductive due to benefits such as cost cutting, complete data control, transparency over buying strategies and the development of both a direct relationship with, and inhouse knowledge of, dominant AdTech ecosystems. So how can a business decide if building a media buying function in house will be more effective than working with an expert partner? In making the decision to forge ahead with buying media, without investing in the specialist knowledge that an agency provides, brands need to understand all the factors at play:

  1. Investment Versus Cost Self-serve digital channels provide huge direct response sales capability. It is possible for an individual with minimal training to deliver some sales growth, but they will not be able to utilise the platform to its true capacity.

A true expert will have detailed knowledge of the native algorithm, alongside experience in AB Testing, creative strategies, e-CRM, data refinement and UX optimisation. By not creating maximum growth acceleration, there is a growth opportunity wasted and an assessment should be made of agency costs versus potential sales.

  1. CPA activity is finite if there is no brand awareness or product understanding Initial CPAs across search and social can be very strong but will quickly hit diminishing returns without investment in product understanding and brand preference.

For disruptor products with low levels of current brand awareness, a large creative canvas or real-life execution may be required to grab potential customers’ attention and explain the product. Where this is not possible within the creative confines of social media, a brand may need to consider bringing other channels into the media mix to increase overall conversion rates. Specialists will be able to advise on the best way of approaching this, to compliment existing in-house activity and ensure that the two are working side by side to accelerate business growth.

  1. Talent development and retention It can be difficult to attract and retain digital talent outside of the large metropolises. Whilst an inhouse team will have a stronger understanding of the overall business, ambitious individuals will want to ensure they see a clear career path within their chosen field of advertising and technology. It can be challenging to provide this inhouse when the core industry the business operates in is outside of the AdTech field.

  2. Impartiality Much has been written about the ethics of large technology companies supplying both the media space and measurement platforms that inform whether the said media space has worked. Whilst undoubtably the tech giants are expert in their own platforms, it pays to have enough expertise to analyse whether the advice they are providing is right for the business in question.

The best way to accelerate growth is a collaboration between expert specialists and inhouse teams. Whilst the scale of the buy may not justify a senior digital media hire, by bringing in experienced experts for discussion and consideration of current buying strategies, a business can benefit from previous experience and ensure maximum efficiency of current activity. For brands to future proof their D2C strategy, they must retain control over their data. However, by inviting an agency to use the brand’s own Facebook or Google account to plan and buy, they can maintain both data control, supplier relationship and complete transparency over the bidding strategies being used. Finally, brands should look at commercial opportunities that emphasise the partnership they are forming. For example, having an expert hot desk from their premises or developing a cost per acquisition (CPA) model so that the third-party share in their success. The media landscape has changed enormously, and brands need to re-evaluate how they work with their partners to allow them to build their own expertise whilst not distracting from their actual business goals which exist outside of AdTech capability.

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