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Tom DenfordMay 18, 2023 6:37:42 PM4 min read

Media Capabilities: More Moving In-House

Brands Deserve Better Media

A weekly column from @tomjdenford



Marketers continue to ponder how much of their media activities they might bring in-house. Recent insights from the ANA paint a positive picture.


The latest report on in-housing by the Association of National Advertisers is rather helpfully named ‘The Continued Rise of the In-house Agency’ which the more eagle-eyed amongst you will see indicates the direction of travel right from the front cover.


More, More, More

We will dig into the 2023 report in detail next week but in summary it tells us that today more brands are bringing more media and creative services in-house and more of them are positive about the experiences and getting improved results.


The ANA has been tracking advertisers’ in-housing sentiments and actions consistently every 5 years, since 2008. In this latest 2023 update (wave 4) they surveyed 150+ ANA members and found:

  • In-house agency penetration is at an all-time high, with 82% of ANA members having an in-house agency in 2023.

  • Overall satisfaction with in-house agencies is high, with 87% of respondents being satisfied. The top benefits quoted are cost reduction, better knowledge of brands, institutional knowledge, and dedicated staff.

  • Media planning and/or buying services are handled in-house to some degree by 54% of respondents and 32% of them have in-housed their programmatic capabilities.


No Longer Just a Trend

Almost every advertiser we work with at ID Comms has brought some part of their media operation in-house to sit closer to their brands and real-time business data and to give them more visibility and control of the process.


Most have been increasing their in-house capabilities over time and are now starting to get a more reliable picture of the commercial impact; generally seeing the in-house operation produce significant cost savings versus using external agencies.


More effective AND more efficient? This certainly feels like a new high-water mark for in-housing to me. As the ANA says:

“In-house agencies should no longer be considered a ‘trend’. They have become firmly entrenched as part of the holistic marketing ecosystem and are now a ‘mainstay’”


What Media Should We Bring In-House?

The first step is to assess and evaluate the marketing organization, its goals and current capabilities. If the organization has a reasonably strong base of internal media experts and a vision for a media strategy, then building media capabilities in-house is both feasible and recommended. If the organization lacks the expertise or resources to build capabilities, then we recommend buying media services from an external agency in the meantime whilst an in-housing roadmap plan is developed.


Either way, the journey needs to be mapped from where the organization sits today through a multi-stage (usually multi-year) program to build up capabilities strategically, and then to keep testing, learning and improving consistently over time.


Are We Behind Our Competitors?

Even the most skilled media directors may feel that they are developing a media operation model without knowing what competitive advantage it could provide them. What we find is true in every single brand we work with is that the media team always doubts their own internal media capabilities in comparison to other brands.


When we work with brand teams to go through our assessment, we usually find that there are some areas where they are excelling - meeting or exceeding the best practices seen in other brands. 


Likewise, there will be some areas where there are gaps that can be addressed to bring the media organization in line with best practices for their category.


Assess, Learn and Keep Improving

The media and creative capabilities you dedicate to growing your brands still need to remain fairly flexible so you can assess, learn and adjust over time to optimize your performance.


I am encouraged to hear so many advertisers acknowledge that in-housing is a ‘journey’ they are taking, in many cases alongside a willing external agency, and those that are able to reflect strategically on their progress will be best positioned to evolve and out perform their category.


Brands deserve better media. So whether you manage your media with an internal team, an external agency or a healthy blend of both, remember we are all in service of the brands we love, and when brands get the media they deserve they flourish.


When brands flourish, we all win.




This post was featured in ID Comms’ weekly column, Brands Deserve Better Media. Each week, CEO Tom Denford shares insights on media and advertising and inspires us to work together to build a better future for the industry.

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