In recent years, marketers have been on a tear to take back control of their brands. Much of that has been in the form of taking various agency functions in-house — creative, social, programmatic, even media buying — in the hopes of not only saving money but becoming more nimble. But doing so isn’t a quick fix, nor is it as simple as it may seem. As marketers start to wake up to that reality, they will start to work with agencies again — albeit in a hybrid model.

The CMO’s pitch to taking marketing in-house to CEOs and CFOs will certainly be more difficult next year as the challenges of handling marketing services in-house are no longer theoretical. As more and more major marketers have tried it, the difficulties of doing so have become clearer, especially for programmatic. There are myriad issues. Staffing is chief among them. Marketers not only have a hard time finding talent but retaining that talent. Others find that it’s not the cost-saving solution they thought it would be. And with former in-house success stories such as Intel’s Agency Inside and Thomson Reuters’ GSC dismantling their in-house teams as well as major marketers like Uber reducing their internal marketing headcounts, the question of long-term viability of in-house teams is starting to come into focus.

Marketers all year have voiced some of the issues with in-house teams. “If you want to take something in-house, it takes a lot of work and eventually you’re going to need the amount of headcount you have at your agency,” said one marketer.

“Whatever you do [in-house or agency], you get the best work when you’re working with a team who will tell you no or that your idea is bad,” said another, adding, “sometimes bigger corporations need an agency to step in to tell them that something is a bad idea, that they don’t have the pulse on culture.”


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