Chief Digital Officer
Brands are more empowered and seek to in-house digital talent but the client-agency relationship continues to thrive.
91% of European brands have moved at least part of their digital marketing operations in-house, driven by a need for greater transparency and data control
But brands need the right talent and skills to capitalise on the benefits, and agencies continue to play a pivotal — if changed — role
“Agility was the biggest factor behind our decision to ‘in-house’,” says Rick Oakley, Head of Digital Marketing at Lucozade Ribena Suntory, which began delivering campaigns in-house in 2016. “The speed and flexibility with which we work has allowed us to deliver some amazing additional customer opportunities at short notice.”
It is a growing trend. A 2019 study from Bannerflow shows that 91% of European brands have moved at least part of their digital marketing operations in-house, with key drivers including cost efficiency, increased transparency and greater control. It is a shift prompted by the explosion in digital, and enabled by increasingly sophisticated technology.
But while more brands look to consolidate practices, streamline their agency roster and bring specific skill sets in-house, it is not always an easy ride. Indeed, research from the Data and Marketing Association (DMA) and Mailjet in 2019 showed that while brands in-housed with a view to reducing costs (57%), improving brand consistency (53%), gaining greater control of campaigns (48%) and improving decision-making (46%), it fell short on all counts.
The potential of in-housing is clear. It can enable greater agility, cutting out the middleman and giving a brand greater immediacy and autonomy. It can also afford transparency, avoiding any misunderstanding about how costs arise and whether the brand is getting value for money. The fact that marketing today is rooted in data also means that use and control of first-party data is increasingly powerful, if not critical.
As Jillian Ryan, eMarketer Principal Analyst commented last year: “Agency relationships can be a black box for brands. Transparency and control were major concerns for brands looking to streamline the agency relationship. For many, the end goal is more ownership over their customer data and the ability to self-sustain.”
While the potential benefits are clear, there are inevitably possible pitfalls to consider too. Aside from losing the fresh, much broader perspective offered by an agency and no longer being challenged to ensure the best work, arguably the biggest obstacle lies in obtaining — or nurturing — the necessary talent to plug the gap left by specialist digital marketing agencies.
When a brand takes a specialism in-house, it must ensure it has the right culture to attract and nurture people with the skills needed to continue to deliver that service internally. Investing in people is paramount, ensuring they are continually learning and that the business has the correct processes in place for them to thrive — and stay.
The DMA’s research shows that future in-housing will concentrate on acquiring key skills within teams, including data analytics (40%), search (37%) and online ad-buying (35%).
The challenge of finding, developing and nurturing the right talent is an arena iCrossing knows well. As more brands take specialisms in-house, many of our clients call on our expertise to help their staff to benefit from knowledge-sharing and up-skilling, particularly when it comes to understanding the complex and fast-changing world of digital marketing.
Our growth marketing specialists embed themselves in our client’s team, working an agreed number of days from their offices. This approach allows them to identify any gaps in the internal team’s knowledge and advise on the best, often bespoke, training solution to fill these voids.
From knowledge-sharing via monthly 30-minute update meetings, to 90-minute training modules delivered on-site, as well as half- and full-day masterclasses, we equip brands with the proficiency and know-how to embrace the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.
The client-agency relationship continues to thrive, but brands are more empowered. An agency’s expertise will allow them to use this power to best effect.
If you are a brand that is actively seeking to boost your in-house knowledge on all things digital, do get in touch with Roger Barr, our Chief Digital Officer. One of our masterclasses may be the ideal solution. We also deliver bespoke training modules designed specifically around our clients’ requirements.
We believe that moving too slowly in digital is the biggest risk your business faces. If you are ready to move faster in digital, we are here to help.