Ever since the release of the Association of National Advertisers’ K2 Report on media transparency, marketers and firms have looked for better mechanisms to control their media. For ambitious companies, the desire for more impact has led some to in-house media. The prospect of an in-house team of media-savvy professionals maximizing the firm’s buying power in programmatic is the dream of many senior executives. For instance, 46% of media and marketing decision makers tell us they pursued an in-house solution “to have more control over our paid media investments.” However, the actuality of an in-house digital media operation is fraught with organizational, technological, and cultural challenges. Any business leader considering establishing or expanding a digital media operation should understand the obstacles before committing.

Setting Internal Expectations That Transformational Results Take Commitment Is Critical

Firms accustomed to focusing solely on maintaining short-term performance must now also balance long-term transformation. An internal media group delivers a long-term, strategic advantage, yet with strategic investments will come proofs of concept, capital investments for headcount, and reorganizations. This will require you to prepare the organization for a new way of working and new responsibilities. Don’t allow yourself or others to be carried away by the promise of immediate cost savings and increased performance. Those benefits come over time.

Finding And Satisfying The High Expectations Of Rarefied Media Talent Is Arduous

Organizations taking advantage of abundant creative and production talent to in-source creative services face a highly competitive and fluid digital media talent market. There’s a good reason why 95% of all in-house agencies offer creative services and only 19% offer programmatic media. Digital media, data science, and strategy talent are highly sought after. The meteoric rise of BIG tech gives those firms the resources and reputation to out-recruit. Retention is another matter. The best talent on the market requires career paths, advancement, and personal development. Consequently, your ability to recruit and retain talent has less to do with media and more with corporate culture. The sacred cows will either need to step aside or give you the heavy air cover required to effect change.

Aligning The Organization To Partners’ Payment Terms Causes Friction

Companies enjoying 90- and 120-day (or longer) payment terms with their agencies will experience a rude awakening with the 30- and 60-day payment terms that publishers demand. Your finance department will need to write hundreds and thousands of checks in much shorter cycles. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves to achieve this. As discussed, you’ll need the cooperation and buy-in from the top to alter the institutional mindset.

Establishing Short- And Long-Term Partner Rules Of Engagement Sparks Anxiety

CMOs and marketers will find themselves mired in an agency melee while they determine the best agency partner(s) to assist in transitioning responsibility and collaborating with the new in-house operation in whatever form it takes. This will make your agency nervous and reluctant to cooperate. However, even the most sophisticated in-house media operations rely on partners. Balancing the new reality with your established partners is necessary. You both need one another. Plan for the future relationship by outlining clear rules of engagement, roles, and responsibilities.

Successfully in-sourcing portions of your media operation results in structural complexity, as there’s no single universally adopted or agreed-upon approach. The first step is understanding how to get the organization ready to do things differently — from HR to operations to finance. Next, you’ll need to identify the right model to organize the necessary functions of media: strategy, execution, technology, and data. Lastly, you need a playbook for establishing or expanding your team. Our latest research, “The Brands’ Guide To In-Housing Media,” helps CMOs and B2C marketers understand that cultural and organizational readiness are prerequisites for success and give you the tools to succeed. The report contains:

  • An understanding of the company barriers to establishing media practices
  • The three most common media management models and how to structure for each
  • A staffing plan for each model to help underway recruiting
  • A three-phase guide for executing your plan

Contact joconnell@forrester.com and jpattisall@forrester.com for questions, inquiries, or advisory.