Brands bring the media in-house, but not without obstacles

It’s time for the sexiest topic in the industry: Programmatic media buying. Hold on, hold on, before we get lost. If you are a marketer, you might want to be careful. Similar to the rise of in-house creative agencies, some companies are launching their own media operations, particularly programmatic buying.

The Association of National Advertisers, ANA, drew attention to the change in 2016, noting * important * transparency issues between agencies and clients. In turn, marketers began to say, “Screw it, we’ll do it ourselves,” choosing to exercise more control over the ad buying process.

Big names like Chase, Molson Coors and Ally Financial have integrated some of their media functions over the past two years.

According to a 2018 ANA survey, 36% of over 200 marketers said they run media services in-house compared to 22% in 2013; 24% had taken on programmatic functions internally.

Remove intermediaries

According to Ana Milicevic, digital marketing consultant and co-founder of Sparrow Advisors, there are several reasons why brands are starting to move media in-house: it’s cheaper (they hope), more transparent, and the company’s marketing department is learning new skills. sets.

Milicevic told Marketing Brew that some brands are wondering why they are paying for media services from an outside agency, a “pretty expensive middle layer,” when they could do the job themselves and save a few dollars in the process. of road.

Pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which manages every element of its digital media investments, moved in-house in 2018, wanting to be closer to the action. “While an agency is effective at managing strategy … they are external partners and far removed from the day-to-day needs of our brands,” wrote Jeff Rasp, head of media, digital platforms and content at Bayer, at Marketing Brew. . “It was by choice so that we had end-to-end ownership, from strategy to measure and everything in between. “

Ally Financial began the * journey * in early 2019. By the end of 2021, all digital media will be fully managed in-house, Andrea Brimmer, CMO and head of corporate public relations told us. “We demanded more transparency in the purchasing process,” said Brimmer.

Previously, Ally relied on the typical chain of command in a media agency, where a report or note had to go through three or four different channels before being presented to the team.

Now Brimmer and his team get the “raw, unfettered” data in real time. In practice, this has allowed his team to test A / B display ads faster, create content faster, react in the moment, and better understand their customers’ journeys.

“It’s a lot slower when it slips out of your brand’s walls,” Brimmer said.

Like many companies that have made the switch, Ally made the transition with the help of her media agency MediaCom, which still does linear buying for the financial services provider.

Timing is everything

Embedding media capabilities in-house can be quite a business. For starters, it takes time.

Cullen Urbano, vice president of consulting and marketing transformation at MightyHive, a company that helps brands start change, said it can take between six months and four years.

“The biggest misconception about in-housing is that it’s just ‘We have to hire people and we have to teach them to buy programmatically’ or ‘We have to teach them to buy on the networks. social, ”he said. “A lot of marketers don’t really understand all the functions their agencies have been performing behind the scenes. “

Additionally, Greg Wright, ANA vice president of content marketing, said the initial investment cost was high.

“It’s a strategy you have to commit to. It’s not “Let’s do it for a year and see how it works,” Wright noted, explaining that companies need to invest in the right tools and the right technology to get everything up and running. “It won’t happen overnight. It will probably take a few years for this investment to pay off. “

Staff conflict

Hiring for these roles isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either. For example, Milicevic described many of these positions, especially those related to programs, as “extremely boring”.

She explained that these roles can be “quite monotonous” if they are not able to drive the strategy. “At the start of internal implementations, the internal team was often convinced of their ability to have an impact on strategy, but in reality it turned out to be quite tactical: they got a fixed budget and a media mix model, and was just supposed to tweak the buttons down to the quarterly results.

Even though the role itself isn’t that bad, it is possible that employees will get bored working on the same brand day in and day out. As Milicevic says, even if everything goes well, “There isn’t necessarily a lot of variance, so you might start to feel underrated much sooner than you would otherwise. ”

Nicole Kane, director of precision and digital marketing at Molson Coors, agrees, noting that there may be limited opportunities for career progression with a purely internal team.

“I know a lot of brands that are concerned … if [they] to bring [their] own internal staff with programmatic, and these are junior employees, where do they go next? ” she said. In practice, Molson Coors does not work with a programmatic media agency, but has a dedicated team within the Amobee advertising platform, which manages purchases on behalf of the company.

“Today at Molson Coors, what ‘internal’ means is that we hold most of our technology contracts,” said Kane.

Wright said the specialized and relatively new nature of programmatic roles also makes recruiting difficult. “I don’t think there are enough people who are heavily invested in knowing how to do it and what it takes to manage. At the same time, kids in college aren’t sitting there saying, “Yes, I want to be a programmatic media buyer.” “

Despite these hurdles, marketers are finding a way to make it work. Ally Financial’s Brimmer said its internal media team has grown from being a digital marketer to over 20 since 2019. According to Brimmer, it has been successful so far in slowing things down.

“We didn’t have the internal infrastructure we needed in place. Reality did not correspond to the dream. We had to build it, ”she said.

Brimmer predicts that over the next few years, Ally’s move in-house in 2019 will save up to 30-40% of her marketing budget, although she did not provide specific numbers to Marketing Brew.

Minda Smiley contributed to this story.

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