Sign up here for the latest articles
By Maddy Smith
We look at Bannerflow/Digiday’s 2022 The State of In-House report, with comments and case studies from Arla Foods and HSBC International to ComeOn Group, Media.Monks and The Observatory International.
A Shifting Ecosystem
“As the industry foundationally shifts, we are seeing brands reevaluate what these changes mean for their agency ecosystem and, more specifically, what core capabilities they want to keep or bring in-house” – Warren Marenco Chase, Media.Monks
Over the past 12 months, in-house teams have adapted to remote and hybrid work models, measuring changes in ROI, tracking the impact of technology on creativity and shifting their working relationships with external agencies. Teams are also working to improve how they collaborate internally in order to build better trust, workflows and communication, while also creating more innovative work.
Bannerflow/Digiday’s The State of In-House report 2022 is the biggest and most comprehensive yet, with double the number of respondents of previous years. Suffice to say, this is the most authoritative reading of European in-house marketing available, one which aims to provide your organisation with the insight you need.
Download the report
The State of In-House report features quotes and case studies from CEOs, Senior Directors and individuals from a number of organisations across the continent. The report is packed full of research data, statistics and charts, which you can find by downloading the report here. However Producers and Procurers iQ have chosen to take a deep dive look at the case studies and quotes in detail.
In the report, Warren Marenco Chase, Global Chief Embedded, Solutions Officer of Media.Monks states: “As the industry foundationally shifts, we are seeing brands re-evaluate what these changes mean for their agency ecosystem and, more specifically, what core capabilities they want to keep or bring in-house — and where it makes more sense to lean on external agency partners”.
The report also dives into a number of case studies. Based in Malta, iGaming company ComeOn Group was founded in 2008 and launched its first online brand in 2010. The company now operates more than 20 brands on its proprietary platform for casino and sports betting. The company’s in-house digital marketing team operates in a hybrid remote-physical environment.
When Eda Acar, who is Head of Marketing, joined ComeOn Group in early 2020, she was tasked to grow the international team and ramp up their in-house marketing efforts, which include ad operations, paid social and programmatic. With a team size of just nine, ComeOn Group follows a traditional marketing setup, assisted by specialized external agencies and began in-housing in 2020.
Over the last 12 months, ComeOn Group has become more digital predominantly through automation and measurement. Acar explains that everything has been automated, so no longer is time wasted through manually creating marketing reports. “In digital marketing”, she explains, “we prioritize the lifetime value of a customer. Now, we have the technology and capability to measure that. Instead of standard CPA calculations, we can determine which customers will be more valuable to us and then know how much to bid on them in our marketing strategies”.
Acar comments on the elements which lead to strong collaboration between in-house and marketing teams. “Good collaboration comes from good culture. In a remote world, this takes extra effort. Our ambition is to get our work done in the best way possible. In order to achieve that, you need to create a team that understands each other, helps each other and is able to spend time together. I started creating online games for the team to partake in on Fridays. This contributes to creating a team environment.
“When we hire someone new to join the team, the more experienced members on our team can easily take the lead in showing the new hire the way we work. We also share information. I look after paid search, paid social, direct media buying, ad operations and external creative and programmatic media buying with my team. There are separate departments, but the information is open to everyone. If one team member has interest in a different area of expertise, they can join another meeting to get that information. I believe this benefits their careers and the work itself”.
Reflecting on the past year, Acar explains that ComeOn Group’s skill set has mainly focused on their departments, which includes paid search, paid social, programmatic and ad operations. Ad operations, she adds, is a unique skill set that allows ComeOn Group’s marketing to be trackable. “After that, we are able to feed data into our dashboards. It allows us to spot any problems very quickly in our day-to-day executions. For paid social, we try to hire someone who understands what kind of social creative we should include in our advertising so that our customers engage more”.
Moving forward, ComeOn Group’s top priorities to improve and advance their in-housing strategy in 2022 and beyond will start by action in the next three months. “I’m hoping to improve revenue-driven optimization and customer lifetime value optimization. I also want to do a deeper analysis into how our customers engage and respond to different types of creative. Creating more functional or interactive creative doesn’t necessarily mean it will perform the best. There’s a balance between interesting, eye-catching and beautiful creative and keeping that creative interesting and understandable to customers”.
The past year has undoubtedly seen a rise in the need for effective communication. Kristian Lundman, Head of Creative at Telia Sweden, highlights: “The demand for fast paced communication just keeps increasing. However, the demand is shifting more from quantity into quality, which I am very pleased to be witnessing”.
The Observatory International
As well as this, Rob Forster, Senior Consultant of The Observatory International highlights some of the further challenges experienced in the past year. “There’s a complacency potential that can set in, and you want to avoid it from the outset. We’ve heard from clients who said they’ve tasked in-house agencies to pitch ideas against external agencies, just to keep creativity fresh and allow them to see what external agencies can do”.
Alongside ComeOn Group, another key case study in the report is of HSBC International. Specifically looking at Caroline Harrison, Head of Digital Marketing’s perspective when it comes to in-house work. The in-house team at financial services company HSBC UK includes a head of media and channel managers for search, social, display and affiliates. The in-house team, which operates remotely right now, also includes a fully in-housed paid search team of five full-time employees. HSBC UK’s other marketing channels are managed externally through a digital media agency, but the company has a long-term plan to completely in-house most channels.
With a digital marketing team size of 28 and 13 within the in-house media team, HSBC International operates with a hybrid setup. In 2021, the marketing team was assisted by specialized external agencies and involved work with paid search, social, display and affiliate marketing.
Again, reflecting on the last 12 months, Harrison says: “We’ve been investing time and resources to develop our data and analytics setup, developing comprehensive and insightful dashboards to track media performance in real time. We also took the first step into the influencer world, collaborating with a few creators on TikTok. We also stream data captured across our digital properties directly into the iHub cloud service solution, and we then leverage a customer data platform (CDP) to activate that data in the media campaigns we deploy”.
For HSBC International, good collaboration is enabled through the in-house team’s relationship, which is part of a matrix organization, working closely with teams responsible for vertical propositions. “It is essential for them to constantly engage in a dialogue. Establishing a strong thought leadership focus within the in-house team is key, as well as fostering a data-driven culture where decisions are made based on numbers over opinions”.
In order to keep the in-house team motivated, the organisation has given the team plenty of room to test their ideas and ensure that their successes are shared with the broader HSBC International team. A clear plan for career growth is outlined and the organisation invests extensively in training for the team. “Everyone gets at least one day a month to support their development and we frequently use external courses to keep them at the top of their game”, Harrison explains.
Currently, HSBC International’s main challenges with in-housing come from the improvements from both performance and cost savings, which have significantly improved, growing the search channel. Taking further steps in the in-housing journey is then challenging due to the radical shift required in terms of organization and processes. For this reason, HSBC aims to invest time in planning this carefully and then roll out in-house additions in a phased approach to minimize risk and ensure continued support of the business goals.
Also assessing growth and challenges, Stadium’s Commercial Director Pino Roscigno outlines their focus. “At the moment, we are focused on growing media competencies and the production of content. We’re looking for photographers and people that are able to quickly produce good, quality material. We are also continuing to build our insights team and our media buying team”.
Another case study is that of Arla Foods’ in-house agency The Barn, which launched in 2019, and has since grown to have 90 employees, offices in Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Germany and the Middle East. The Barn, which operates in a hybrid remote-physical office environment, produces global and local creative productions for digital channels, as well as digital media buying. Arla Foods also works closely with a few external agencies on creative strategy, while The Barn’s role is to bring those creative concepts to life.
The report gives insight from Thomas Heilskov, Senior Director, Global Head of Digital Marketing and The Barn, in-house creative and media agency.
In the past 12 months, The Barn has turned to become more digitalized, it has been designed with an operating model and processes for creating campaigns and building brands in a digital world. The Barn’s approach to in-housing has been focusing on tasks where media and creativity come together. Programmatic buying has become commonplace throughout The Barn’s operations and they operate close to all the creative team as well.
“There’s a dynamic of capturing learnings from media, which informs our creative, and vice versa”, Heliskov says. “We focus mainly on content that is all through biddable media. We were built as a digital agency but, as more and more media becomes programmatic and biddable, we are moving into creating outdoor and addressable media as well”.
Arla Foods’ in-housing team has improved its innovation over the last year. “A core strength of The Barn is we have a continuous learning and feedback loop built into our model. We’re working with so many more variants of content today, which enables buyers to test different creative out, make adjustments and give feedback. A lot of value comes from those learnings, making us smarter in terms of thinking about platforms and placements. For example, we have been learning more about what it takes to create content that will resonate on platforms such as TikTok and Snap”, Heilskov explains.
“Arla Foods is a cooperative, so collaboration is one of our core values. We focus a lot on bringing different skill sets and mindsets together. We are bringing in media people who haven’t been close to creative before, and creative people coming in who haven’t been close to the media side. In The Barn, we have media buyers and creative talent sitting desk to desk”.
With regards to collaboration, The Barn is also focusing on improving connectivity with brands and external partners by focusing on strengthening account management and project management. The Barn has clients who are used to working with external agencies. If clients don’t feel they are getting the service and support they need from an in-house partner, you are not setting your in-house model up for long-term success and the model won’t be sustainable.
To ensure the team stays motivated, The Barn is taking some key steps to avoiding burnout, which Heilskov explains is the main concern, particularly during the pandemic. He adds that there’s a parallel between creating in-house agencies and creating a startup. “You’re creating something new, with new energy and new culture. If people are sitting remotely, you’re in a vulnerable place if you’re a young organization with a young team. It’s important to bring people together and to not lose focus on the type of team you’re building.
“We’ve been able to attract a lot of talent that has been motivated by challenging the existing agency model. What we’re trying to do with The Barn is disrupt that model and that way of working. I think what motivates in-house talent is curiosity on how they can work differently. How can we create campaigns in a way that’s smarter and more agile that what we used to do?”.
In 2022, The Barn’s top priority to improve their in-housing strategy is to focus on bringing media, creative and data closely together to ensure a repeatable model is created for how campaigns are developed. The energy will go into formalizing how The Barn works and professionalizing workflows, and then being able to repeat that model. Another priority is creating more transparency in the organisation’s work for brands, so The Barn can become the agency of choice for brands.
“We want to demonstrate how the model that we’re building is delivering strong results, and we want to share those results across the business. We want internal and brand teams to be able to compare the value they get from The Barn versus external agencies”, Heilskov explains.
Sign up here for the latest articles or follow us on linkedin