Five things to consider in the in-housing vs agencies debate

See what the MediaCom US Chief Client Officer has to say about in-house and external agencies.

Recent headlines from industry trades are pitting in-house vs external agencies - but why does it need to be one or the other? Coming from a consultancy and now leading US client relationships at MediaCom, I approach in-housing from a more objective perspective. I’ve helped many clients answer the question "should we in house part or all of our media?" and the question back is "what is the business reason to do so?"

Here’s a collection of some of the most common reasons in the recent back and forth debate.

Data sharing

We’re seeing over and over again that brands don’t want to share their data with external partners and want to keep it all inside their four walls. Regardless of NDAs, legacy relationships and earned trust, given the current landscape and issues with data privacy, companies want to keep their data to themselves.

We all get it, in-housing seems like a safer bet for brands to do this, as long as they’re aware it can compromise efficiency and effectiveness, which is a decision a Client has to make.  


What we’re seeing with a lot of brands is that they’re taking some of their business in house, but certainly not all of it. While this makes sense for various reasons, it also creates a more fragmented process which can create a less cohesive and less effective plan. If brands are bringing part of their business in-house, it’s critical that they remain transparent and integrated with the agency partners they are keeping on retainer to ensure the most powerful messages are being delivered to the brand’s audiences. We are committed to working seamlessly with in-house teams as we would with any other agency partner.


Creating mini-agencies in house is certainly new and exciting, and while employees are able to be fully immersed in the brand culture, they will be challenged to bring an outside perspective. This continues to be a key benefit for external agencies. Working on a variety of clients and getting exposure to new ideas across multiple media publishers, understanding different business models, and cross sharing best practices with your colleagues will be a limitation for in-house teams.

Fluidity of Information

Having teams on-site whether part of in-house or external agency partners creates a more fluid environment for sharing of information. For anyone to be successful, there needs to be open sharing of information with clearer briefs and sharing of business priorities, beyond marketing. 

Forefront of Innovation

Given the wealth of talent and range of clients and experiences, agencies are always evolving and able to make it, build it, buy it, do it. It’s a mandate and included within the job description of every agency leader. With this, advertisers working with agencies get access to cutting edge thinking and the latest tools and technology, and people. This will continue to be an advantage for agencies.

So where does this leave us? With a curiosity… - if clients committed to 100% dedicated teams at an agency, fueled by all the benefits that we have to offer – would this panic button be switched to off?

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to remember what we’re all here for, and that’s to communicate brand messages creatively and effectively so that they deliver the desired impact on the business.

Agencies are always evolving, we’re used to this, so whatever the model a client decides to go with, as long as we are all on the same mission we’ll always help them succeed.      

Bhavana Smith is the chief client officer of MediaCom US.

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