The Reality of In-Housing Through a Global Pandemic
by James Diba
Many advertisers around the world have been implementing in-housing programs for their digital media over the last few years. It is no secret that some have gone well, others have famously not gone so well. Despite the mixed success that brands have seen when looking to in-source this activity, the appetite to do so has not relinquished. Numerous brands are just starting to embark on this journey and many are already part-way through….when suddenly a global pandemic hits and disrupts business plans across almost all verticals.
So, what does this mean for brands who are already on/looking to start their in-housing project? Do they pull the plug? Do they accelerate their plans? Are there different ways of working with partners for an interim period? Well, depending on the brand and the stage that they’re at, the answer could be any one of these.
Let’s look at the different scenarios that could play out, the impact they could have on the business and the pros & cons to each.
Pull the plug:
Easiest option to avoid uncertainties or challenges that may lay ahead.
Could avoid the potential for a prolonged process which ends up costing more to the business than was forecast, meaning a longer payback scenario is required.
Mitigates any challenges regarding the uncertainty of employment with many furloughs and redundancies having already been recognised, with further redundancies looking almost inevitable.
Significant time and resource may have already been invested into the project, leading to wasted cost for the business.
Could push back the timelines of other workstreams which are dependent on in-housing completion.
Many internal stakeholders may be bought into the project and this would require careful management of expectations.
As businesses experience unprecedented changes, having an in-housed operation increases flexibility and reactivity of marketing activation. This is critically important during uncertain economic times where demand is difficult to predict.
Complete control and ownership of data and operations has always been one of the core drivers of in-housing, this doesn’t change during a global pandemic
Having an internal media activation function means that those responsible have a much better understanding of the business challenges that are currently being faced, which can result in better alignment of business goals and marketing campaigns
Better set up for future success if the right structures and frameworks are put in place now.
Internally there may be concerns around making drastic changes during very uncertain times. This will be determined by the perception of the risk involved to the business.
Many businesses are adjusting to new ways of remote working. This can take time and slow down processes whilst new processes are put in place.
To in-house requires new talent and new skillsets within the business. With the backdrop of one of the largest economic recessions in a generation looming large, both brands and employees are reticent to hire/move jobs. This means that there can be talent shortages to drive the in-housing project forward.
Different ways of working with partners:
Agency or managed service providers have invaluable expertise and experience, which can support brands in navigating uncertain times, whilst delivering performance and insights which can feed into other business areas.
Uncertainty can lead to closer collaboration with a ‘we’re all in it together’ mentality which can garner better relationships and ways of working.
Partners are more and more willing to be flexible to meet client requirements, meaning that roles and responsibilities can be split between client and partner, ensuring that any strategic gaps are filled as an interim solution.
Devising and deploying a new way of working with a partner could slow down other business priorities and projects.
It is important to consider that agencies and managed service providers are also going through difficult and disruptive times. How could this impact their business and the talent within their business in the future? Will they have the best talent available to service your business to the required level?
Partners have a conflicted business model to their clients in that they need their clients to spend more, in order for them to make more money. With financial pressures coming down from the top, it is important to ensure that any recommendations made by a partner is made with the best interest of your business in mind.
As eluded to earlier, there is no right or wrong way to approach in-housing during this time and the required solutions will differ from brand-to-brand depending on variables such as the vertical that they are in, the stage of the in-housing journey that they are at, the size of the operation required to in-house etc.