Brands: Before you in-house, understand what's happening in your front yard

Mark Wagman, MediaLink's head of data and technology solutions, shares his insights on in-housing.

If you’re one of the many marketers who are racing to ‘in-house’ your media operations, think about slowly easing off that accelerator. Don’t pull up on that emergency break just yet, but I would certainly take a closer look at the plan you architected or the roadmap you have started down. In-sourcing is a real option for today’s brands – more so than ever before. Unfortunately, however, just like that 16-year-old’s first drive with their newly-minted license, too many marketers are mashing the peddle to the floor.

This isn’t a race – and certainly not one where the first to complete the lap are the clear-cut winners. Again, in-sourcing is a real option for today’s brand, but only if they first understand what’s happening outside their garage.

Brands: as you think about taking the first steps of in-sourcing, consider first what’s going on outside. In the ecosystem, the summer months have re-ignited what can best be described as a data arms race. Holding companies invested externally (IPG acquires Acxiom), and internally (Omnicom launches Omni Platform). AT&T doubled-down on supply and demand- side tech with its acquisition of AppNexus. Salesforce sharpened its data visualization and insights capabilities with its Datorama acquisition. And Accenture, the global player everyone loves to hate, formally launched its own ‘programmatic media’ division.

In your media ecosystem – your sliver of the industry – what platforms do you work with? Your agency? What publisher partnerships are in place? What type of creative and content optimization tools are used? Marketers who don’t take the time to first deconstruct their end-to-end marketing value chain – from campaign brief and media mix modeling through to campaign execution and measurement – run the risk of taking the wrong pieces in house. Or worse yet, taking too much in house.

From the holding companies building and buying platforms for people-based data collection, storage and activation, to the market giants buying new additions to their stack, investment is driving innovation at a speed not seen before. All of this is a response to brands who have been begging for more tightly integrated solutions that allow them to leverage their own, first-party data.

So, what does this mean for you, brand marketer, who continues to hear that this is the year to ‘in-source’ your media team? Be smart and take your time.

Can these newly beefed-up, behemoth organizations effectively fill your gaps? Possibly.

Can your internal marketing team build sophisticated solutions as quickly as market leading telcos, holding companies and cloud giants? Can you recruit and retain the right talent? Can you get the investment required to bring it to life – at scale? Not easily.

Today’s in-sourcing is a much more strategic approach to assessing your organization’s technology, operational and resourcing needs, and it usually starts with understanding who and what comprises your stack. Audit your partners and unpack the media and creative supply chains. Ask yourself: where are the inefficiencies that are costing my team time, money and wasted cycles? Review the type of talent you’ll need to bring certain components internal. Do the skill sets exist? Can they be acquired through education and training? These are just the first of dozens of questions that today’s marketers should be asking themselves – certainly well before any ‘in-housing’ decision is made.

If your brand launches hundreds of new products quarterly, creative production might be a logical first place to in-source. But the idea that you, brand marketer, can or should invest to create a consumer identity graph the size and scale that only AT&T can operate is insane. So why even think about bringing media buying and analytics ‘in-house?’ Let your strengths dictate your partnership strategy – remember, this is not an all-or-nothing scenario. Stop wasting time trying to out-do the market leaders and start spending time understanding how they can help accelerate your ‘in-sourcing’ goal.

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