Marketers expose ‘operational nightmare’ of inhousing

angry laptopInhousing, once viewed as the answer to every marketer’s dreams, has turned into a horror story for many companies, with the double whammy of an operational nightmare and a lack creative inspiration leading many to question current working practices.

That is the damning conclusion of a new report, The InHouse Marketing Model Reimagined, by Content Studio, which quizzed 150 CMOs across multiple disciplines at businesses with more than 250 employees.

The report also reveals that nearly half (43%) of all marketers think inhousing is an operational nightmare, while two-fifths (39%) say teams lack creative inspiration and a third (33%) reckon it is difficult to implement as a model.

Meanwhile, 27% of marketers also believe that inhousing makes it “difficult to recruit talent”, “difficult to retain talent” and is not “cost-effective”. Some 27% also say they have not seen concrete proof it works.

While most recognise inhousing is here to stay, a resounding 80% think it could be improved and 77% say they would consider using a different model.

Marketing procurement expert Tina Fegent notes: “The main problem that I encounter with inhouse agencies is the rub with internal stakeholders. It’s a really hard job to lead an inhouse agency. These tend to be creative director-led, which in my opinion is the wrong approach as they are too invested in the output. You need project managers and a team that can handle wider operations.”

The inhouse marketing model has gained considerable momentum in recent years. In 2016, Unilever launched a network of inhouse content production studios to operate across its offices worldwide, aimed at producing cheaper, faster and better content. In 2019, TSB launched its own inhouse content studio to revive its marketing team, deliver content at speed and cut down on agency costs.

More recently, Boots launched a new marketing agency, tapping into the retailer’s loyalty club data to deliver personalised campaigns for brand owners.

Dubbed Boots Media Group, the agency is a joint venture with media agency Threefold, and offers a full-service proposition that places the data on Boots’ Advantage Card’s 17 million active members at the heart of the business.

Pete Markey, chief marketing officer at Boots, quoted in the report, says: “The main challenges right now are getting the right talent in and making sure it’s attractive for them to stay. You need to create an environment that inspires people. This can easily be squashed by sticking them in a corporate and saying, ‘You need to wear a suit to the office’. The conditions need to work, which means keeping the culture vibrant, interesting and different.

“There’s a danger that the inhouse model can become quite cookie-cutter. This lack of flexibility might not get the best out of our people or the way we operate. For me, the right answer is a hybrid combination of the way an agency works and the way a client works to find that solution.”

However, it seems the “operational nightmare” issue also increases with company size. Between 250-499 employees is 33%, 500-749 employees is 38%, 1,000-1,499 employees is 45%, 1,500-1,999 employees is 50% and, 2,000 employees is 53%.

Similarly, when asked Which of the following would most sway you to adopt an inhouse model? The answers were “If it helped us increase the quality of our work” (41%), “If it helped us become more creative as a business” (34%) and “If it helped us solve our hiring needs” (33%).

Collective strategy partner Chris Shadrick said: “Inhousing is here to stay. That is for sure. But this report shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that clients are crying out for a more creative and less nightmarish model.”

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