In-house vs agency marketing - and, yes. We're Biased

In-house vs agency marketing - and, yes. We're Biased

We know, we know. “I wonder what side of this debate the agency will come down on?” But hear us out, as with most things in life, it isn’t as black and white as that. 

In a recent article by MarketingWeek, various statistics are pulled out about the growing trend of ‘in-housing’ and how companies had found the results disappointing despite initial high hopes. For example, “38% thought they could improve creativity as a result of bringing processes in-house, but only 27% believe this has happened in reality.” 

Apparently, costs have not gone down as much as originally hoped either. “While there is just a four percentage point gap between marketers’ expectations and achievements on cost saving, there is a seven percentage point gap for brand consistency, a nine percentage point gap for improved decision making and a two percentage point gap for control.”

And yet, companies continue to take this path. The latest big brand to make the move is Hertz, who have opened their own agency named Hertz Engine to handle creative in Europe. However, instead of just staffing this with people already working at Hertz, they have instead collaborated with agency Adjust Your Set to build and staff the new addition. 

The excellently named Temerity Vinson, a marketer at Hertz, claims this will bring much-needed “consistency” and “efficiency” to the company’s output. Anna-Louise Gladwell, MD of Adjust Your Set conveniently agrees. “Like many international brands, Hertz was working a decentralised agency model, which can lead to fragmented and often duplicated creative work.”

You can see the logic. But does having agencies really lead to duplication? Said agencies must not be doing a very good job researching their clients. Similarly, in-house marketing may have a certain sameness, but is that a good thing? The risk of an echo-chamber and of a certain complacency must be huge. External agencies have to fight for their contracts and a few bad months can sour a client and jeopardise renewal. There is a drive to deliver every time. 

Perhaps a better way to look at things is to not see each option as a binary existing in opposition to each other. In-house marketers can be inconsistent just as external agencies can be lazy. What matters more is strategy and the way in which each campaign is deployed. A focus on KPIs, audience and ROI is surely more important than a belief in either one or the other. 

We don’t want to seen to be sitting on the fence, but it seems that often the answer comes in the form of a partnership. Each option has its own strengths and many companies that employ marketers internally also use agencies, either for activity they don’t feel comfortable managing in-house or for one-off campaigns that need a bit of special oomph. 

Hertz’s example doesn’t actually come off as eschewing the traditional agency approach and blazing a new trail (insert car puns here). Instead, they seem to want an entire external agency and all the benefits that come with that arrangement dedicated solely to Hertz. Not an option that smaller companies can really replicate. As is so often the case, the future looks as though it will arrive at a kind of compromise based on the individual needs of each company. Agencies will never be disposed of and people will never stop thinking they can do a better job in-house.

See? We weren’t that biased after all.