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A growing contingent of client-side marketers are turning to in-house agencies to take more ownership of their advertising and marketing strategy.
According to an Association of National Advertisers (ANA) survey, 58% of US client-side marketers said their company used an in-house agency this year, compared to only 42% who five years earlier said the same. And 56% of respondents said in May 2013 that in the past three years, they had moved at least some established business previously handled by an external agency to their in-house agency.
Magazine advertising, social media, online display advertising and search engine marketing were the services most commonly handled by an in-house agency, according to the study. The proliferation of digital marketing channels may be convincing companies to move more marketing in-house, so they can be more responsive and create a full breadth of material at lower cost. Still, only small percentages of in-house agencies handled most of these services, indicating that much work still sits squarely with external agencies.
Traditional TV and radio advertising were the least likely formats to be handled in-house.
Marketers cited cost savings as the most significant advantage of bringing agency work in-house in 2008. This year, it remained the top advantage, however one cited by far fewer respondents.
Five years earlier, more than half of marketers saw cost efficiencies as an in-house agency’s primary advantage, whereas in 2013, that figure had dropped to 35%. Other factors instead took on greater precedence: 19% of marketers cited brand expertise, as well as institutional knowledge and the added benefit of a team dedicated to the company or brand. This indicates that marketers have become more satisfied by the quality of work created by in-house agencies.
But the disadvantages also stacked up. Forty-five percent of the survey respondents said it would not be as easy to stay on top of key trends with an in-house agency. That was more than the percentage of marketers who saw this as a challenge in 2008, and suggests that digital channels amplify the importance of understanding the latest marketing opportunities. Creative innovation was also seen as more lacking when agencies moved in-house, along with limited skill sets among the staff.
The digital marketing age seems to be forcing marketers to navigate between two competing impulses—the need to produce more marketing than ever before across ever-proliferating channels is making in-house agencies particularly attractive. But the skills needed to effectively leverage and communicate via these channels are still often seen as best handled by agencies fully dedicated to the advertising and marketing space.
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