Taking your digital advertising in-house? Start with the right people and tech
Once you recognize the traits of a good team – analytical, creative, organized and detail-oriented – then you can start the tech debate about "buy vs. build."
Transparency and attribution are two topics that continue to end up on marketers’ agendas. Do we have visibility into how ads are performing? Are our ad budgets optimized and driving net-new revenue?
Unfortunately, many marketing teams are still left with these questions unanswered. They’ve grown tired of media mark-ups and having their data hidden in a proverbial “black box” by agencies or other players. They want more control over their data and better performance.
So it’s no surprise digital marketers are continuing the trend of taking matters into their own hands – specifically, digital advertising. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) has reported that 78 percent of their members had an in-house agency in 2018, versus 58 percent in 2013 and 42 percent in 2008.
Netflix and Target were in-housing pioneers, and Sprint, L’Oreal, Booking.com and Unilever have all reported that in-housing has saved money and helped execute ad campaigns faster. While the benefits are clear, any company making the in-house move should expect strategic and cultural adjustments.
To run ad campaigns at scale, the transition from outsourced to in-house digital advertising needs to start with a focus on having the right people and tech in place.
Create an environment where an in-house strategy can prosper
First, recognize what the team will need to execute now on. This includes finding and experimenting with new ad opportunities; analyzing campaign performance metrics; pacing against monthly goals, and managing budget allocations across different channels.
It’s also vital that you establish the roles and responsibilities for the team — from creative and campaign management to analytics and ad tech support. Aim to train and recruit employees with the following traits in mind:
- Analytical – They love to geek out over pivot tables and dive into spreadsheets of data to understand what drives performance.
- Creative – They know marketing programs are equal parts of data analytics and good creative design. Some unicorns can tap into both their right and left brain to come up with innovative solutions.
- Organized and detail-oriented – They obsessively make to-do lists and can’t stand to let experiments fall through the cracks.
Additionally, don’t limit yourself to those with a traditional advertising background (i.e., paid search, display advertising, media buying). While industry expertise is an asset, it can greatly narrow your candidate pool. An eager-to-learn person with a background in finance, accounting or even visual design could bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the team.
Determine if you need a buy or build technology
Building your programmatic platform from the ground up will provide complete control, though it typically comes with much higher costs. Often only companies that spend upwards of $100M annually in paid media take this route as they can afford the engineering resources and data scientists.
On the other hand, “buying” a platform from an ad tech software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider or even using the free native platforms on each channel (the latter means less cross-channel control) comes with far fewer headaches than starting from scratch.
Either path will depend on having the right tech components in place. For advertising on the open web, this means having a demand-side platform (DSP) in place. Even if you’re just purchasing media on Facebook or Google, you’ll still need a plan for producing ad creative. You’ll also need to think about how much control you want over your campaigns so you can adjust your target audiences or your bid amounts. With all this in mind, carefully consider user interface (UI) and reporting capabilities.
“Buy versus build” can be a hotly debated conversation, but it ultimately comes down to:
- Will your team have enough control to make the appropriate changes to your campaigns in a timely manner?
- Can you accurately report on, and attribute, your ad campaign’s success or failure to drive revenue?
It’s OK to start slow with in-housing knowing the benefits will come
In addition to having more control and a clearer view of ad performance, in-housing will save money. By cutting out the middlemen, you eliminate massive media mark-ups. And that means more budget to spend on actual media, as your team can bid higher and reach a wider audience.
Not only will you have more control over your campaigns, but also your data. This data is a treasure trove of insights about how your best customers and prospects behave. These insights will give you the freedom to craft advertising that’s relevant, engaging and personalized.
Your team will also benefit from a complete view of cross-channel performance gains because digital ad budgets aren’t siloed across third-party partners. Most marketers cite faster turnaround time as a key advantage of the in-house approach.
Perhaps most importantly, no one understands customers and potential customers like your own team. Bringing that in-house expertise to the digital advertising process is an untapped opportunity. You’ll be able to put internal expertise to use in a concrete way!
The in-housing trend shows no signs of slowing; however, not every organization has the resources to handle this shift. If the benefits are appealing but making a change is daunting, start slowly. Maybe just take one channel in-house and assign ownership of it to a single team member.
It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but in-house advertising is one of the best paths to improving the performance of your digital ad campaigns.