Welcome Home: Brands Bring Digital Ad Strategies Back In-House

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Welcome Home: Brands Bring Digital Ad Strategies Back In-House

by Rick Jones. General Manager, UK. Adform October 26, 2016

We’re seeing a distinct shift in the digital marketing space at the moment, particularly in programmatic advertising.

Advertisers are getting increasingly savvy and now welcome the idea of granular, tightly defined data-driven advertising strategies. They are also owning those strategies by creating in-house programmatic and data teams, as we’ve seen with brands including Netflix, Deutsche Telekom, American Express, and MoneySupermarket.

A number of factors are propelling this shift, but the primary motive is that brands want to consolidate all tech providers and relationships, replacing a siloed, time-consuming workflow. This decision manifests itself in two hugely beneficial ways, giving the brand a team of invested stakeholders working on the brand’s behalf with greater control over data.

Brands that attempt to bring programmatic in-house will have to acquire the expertise of programmatic professionals, but once they do, those digital marketing managers will understand the brand, its audience, and its markets better than anyone else. By bringing digital advertising strategies in-house, internal employees, who are already close to the brand and data, can passionately invest in campaign success and achieve a seamless, customer-centric approach. This approach extends across everything—including creative, message, and media—creating and ensuring a relevant and mutually beneficial customer journey.

Data is also a big reason for the in-house shift. Brands are increasingly aware of the value of their first-party data as digital advertising continues to soar and override print advertising. Data is the most valuable commodity within the advertising space. Yes, it’s impossible to engage an audience without creative execution, but data plays a key role in the strategy that leads to creative. It’s so important to strategy that, naturally, brands want to keep data within their walls.

This is the reason that data management platforms (DMPs) are coming in-house too. They provide increased data protection, security, collation, management, activation, and evaluation, all within one platform. Brands control the access, so they can see unfiltered consumer insights and use this to inform future brand and performance campaigns.

The rise of in-house DMPs has made it easier for brands to collect, manage, analyze, and activate data, resulting in more relevant and engaging consumer-centric campaigns. This creates a holistic approach to digital advertising and ensures all providers are working toward the same set of short-term data-driven campaign objectives and long-term business objectives.

Bringing complex activities in-house comes with challenges. Last year, trade body SoDA said that 27% of brands were taking digital marketing in-house, signaling a major step forward. By June 2016, SoDA reported that this figure had fallen to 13%--perhaps evidence that brands were starting to recognize some of the difficulties with in-housing. The industry is relatively small, and finding talented individuals within an already limited pool is difficult.

There is a theme emerging here, in that consumer-centric advertising paired with committed in-house management equals more positive brand experiences for consumers and increased ROAS and ROI for brands. While we are seeing it manifest in programmatic, it’s also possible to see how brands could bring other disciplines in-house for more control and better results.

Search is strategically vital as it produces quality leads, so it’s understandable why some CMOs are looking for direct control. However, search roles are intensive and involve ongoing tweaking, monitoring, and optimization. Of course, rules and regulations that dramatically affect the search industry continue to change, often overnight, which means ongoing engagement in the broader search landscape is crucial, and hence why CMOs are often retaining agencies for their market consultancy.

With brands now speaking directly to their audiences via social, we’re seeing many CMOs concerned about the risks of outsourcing their brand’s voice. As with search, close monitoring of the wider industry is needed to understand algorithm changes, new advertising opportunities, reporting innovations, and the emergence of new platforms and technologies. Finally, it’s common for brands to be more conservative in their thinking than agencies, which can hamper creative and audience engagement on social.

Irrespective of the different digital roles going in-house at the moment, perhaps the key trend we’re seeing is CMOs bringing their marketing contracts in-house, thus giving the brand a complete view, and complete control, of all data sets.

In-house strategies will look different for every brand across every different channel, but it’s obvious that nearly all brands will experience some change with their agencies. The in-house trend has complications, but will continue to grow as brands realize the value of their data and continue to invest in keeping that data close.


Rick Jones is general manager, UK, at Adform, the independent and open full stack ad-tech platform that encompasses creativity, data and trading, servicing media agencies, trading desks, brands, and publishers globally. 


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