8 Pros and Cons of In-Housing Paid Media Teams

8 February, 2023


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Vervaunt is a London-based ecommerce consultancy and paid media agency, working alongside ambitious ecommerce brands and retailers to improve key areas of their business and drive growth.

It’s crucial to have a paid media team that not only understands your brand’s goals and visions but also harnesses new trends and technology and enables your business to scale. But businesses are often faced with the question of “do I build an in-house paid media team or choose to work with an agency”.

This post weighs up the pros and cons of in-housing paid media teams to help businesses come to an informed decision.

The key positives to in-housing

1) Brand familiarity and industry expertise

One of the main benefits of in-housing paid media teams is brand familiarity. In-house, paid media teams are embedded in the organisation’s structure and are therefore able to invest more time into understanding the brand’s products, the existing customer base and the target audience as well as develop a deeper attachment to the brand’s vision and goals - essentially they benefit from having visibility of the brand’s “bigger picture”.

In-house, paid media teams gain an understanding of a single industry and are therefore facilitated in becoming experts in that particular industry. On the flip-side, working with agencies involves bringing them up to speed on your brand’s vision and goals and this relies on strong communication across teams.

Organic media channels are more likely to be taken in-house first, where teams want to ensure that posted content and community engagement is fully in-line with the brand. In-house paid media teams can often be a larger consideration, where it can be more technical.

2) Control

When you bring your paid media team in-house, you are inevitably increasing the amount of control you have over their activity. Where working with an agency means shared responsibility and allowing the agency some freedom to make strategic decisions, in-housing paid media activity allows your brand to independently dictate the marketing strategy as well as various other elements including the team’s workload, the treatment of sensitive information, and the execution of brand tone and image.

Working with an agency relies on a level of trust when it comes to these elements, although this partnership and a relinquishing of control brings new voices into the mix, which can prove to be extremely fruitful for your business.

3) Focus

With an in-house paid media team, their time is not divided across different organisations - this means that they are entirely focused on your brand and your brand alone. This is unlike agencies, which commonly work with multiple clients and therefore have to spread their time and attention across multiple brands instead of dedicating themselves to one company. In-house teams are essentially “all hands on deck” and this can sometimes allow for faster execution of marketing plans.

However, it is worth taking into consideration the fact that this level of efficiency of course depends on whether the right people have been hired to carry out the work. In-house paid media teams are usually a lot smaller than an agency, meaning they are likely to tick fewer boxes when it comes to a wide range of digital skill sets.

4) Location

Location can be a big benefit when organisations decide to in-house their paid media teams. Unlike an agency, the team will be based in your office - meaning that team members are more readily accessible. This potentially allows for easier communication - instead of organising calls and communicating briefs via email, you simply need to walk over to the team to discuss marketing strategies and workload. Being based in the same location makes it easier to align schedules and also allows the paid media team direct access to all of the other departments for cross-channel knowledge sharing.

Working with an agency has always relied upon strong remote communication. However, changes in culture caused by the pandemic and the resultant rise of remote working means that in-house teams have had to adapt to hybrid working. Location is more complex than it used to be; it's no longer guaranteed that all of your staff will be based in the office all of the time - there is potential for communication friction when working with both in-house and agency teams.

The downsides to in-house paid media teams

1) Limited skill-sets

It is unrealistic to expect an in-house team to be able to match the skill-sets of agencies. In-house teams are smaller and rely upon a select few individuals, in contrast to agencies which have access to more team members with a wide range of skill-sets. When an organisation working with an agency wishes to scale a particular area of activity or expand into a new market, they simply need to communicate this with their agency, who will be able to pull in the most experienced individual to lead the project. Without an agency in this instance, an organisation relies upon an in-house team being trained up to develop the specialist skills required to carry out a new project, or otherwise need to hire more people with the relevant skills. In this respect, agencies are able to provide on-demand support to facilitate growth.

Due to the nature of working with multiple clients, agencies benefit from a wealth of experience and a broader understanding of trends across different industries and markets. As a business looking to work with an agency, you get to choose from the best, most experienced organisations in your particular industry - look at their case studies and opt for an agency with a proven record of success. An in-house team’s access to new technology and features can also be limited compared to that of an agency that benefits, for example, from Google Ads betas as well as a greater volume of client data which can be harnessed to inform marketing decisions.

Agencies also make it their mission to stay on top of best practices and foster a culture of shared learning to keep the whole team up to speed, which involves sharing industry updates, skills, and case studies to support each other's accounts. In-house teams have fewer case studies to learn from, and there is therefore less opportunity for knowledge sharing. Agency expertise is fostered by this environment, as well as the fact that they operate in a highly saturated and competitive market which means they need to stand-out by staying on top of their game. The result is greater drive and innovation - they bring a competitive edge which can really benefit your business.

2) Becoming too insular

A downside to in-housing paid media activity is the likely risk of becoming too insular. As mentioned, in-house teams are smaller and there is therefore less opportunity for a diverse range of voices to input into marketing strategies. Suggestions are limited and ideas might go unchallenged. Working with an agency, however, ensures that an exchange of ideas takes place which involves debate and the scrutinising of ideas to formulate the best marketing plans possible.

Agencies are unbiased and can therefore bring fresh ideas to your organisation. These fresh ideas also come about as a result of an agency’s fresh pair of eyes - this outside observation can help your brand to overcome stagnant thinking and creativity, the possible result of becoming too insular as an organisation.

3) Cost

It’s a common misconception that paid media agencies cost businesses more. Yes, agencies come with a fee, but this is usually significantly lower than the expense of building and running an in-house paid media team. According to a 2021 marketing survey on budgets, trends, and inspiration for SMBs, hiring a marketing agency is almost 50% more cost-efficient than an in-house marketing team.

In-housing is expensive - it encompasses recruitment efforts and paying for HR time, buying equipment, investing in software, putting in place training programmes, and offering benefits to keep the team happy. Agencies look after their own people and working with agencies therefore means your organisation saves on these types of expenses. Agencies also usually come with their own toolset, so launching new activity won’t rely on your organisation purchasing new software.

Budget constraints can make it challenging for in-house teams to be reactive to scaling in peak periods, as it is more expensive to grow an in-house team to run this activity. A reliance on in-house teams can therefore lead to missed opportunities and stagnant growth.

4) Recruitment burden

A significant downside to in-housing paid media is the recruitment burden. The hiring and screening process involves a significant amount of HR time for creating the job listing, advertising the role, interviewing, negotiating, and putting together contracts.

The amount of effort required for recruitment can therefore make retention a source of anxiety for businesses. Turnover can cause significant issues for teams - increasing pressure on the staff who remain, which can potentially lead to a drop in morale and negatively impacted performance. This in turn leads to a sense of urgency to rehire.

In contrast, working with a paid media agency means that if an account manager leaves, they’ll simply be replaced by another team member to take over the workload and keep the strategy running.

Final thoughts

There are some strong positives when it comes to in-house paid media teams. There’s the opportunity to develop a deeper level of brand familiarity, your organisation will have greater control over the team’s activity, they’ll be able to focus solely on your brand, and they’ll be more easily accessible in terms of location.

However, working with a paid media agency allows your organisation to benefit from a wider range of skill sets, and avoids your brand from becoming too insular and introduces new voices and ideas to the mix. Working with an agency will also help to relieve the burdens related to expense and recruitment. The right agency will be invested in understanding your brand’s visions and goals and will establish a strong working relationship for effective communication on marketing plans. When searching for the agencies, we suggest you ask them some of the following questions to determine whether they are right for your business:

  • Has your team worked with other brands in our industry?

  • What accreditations and certifications does your team have?

  • What channels does your team have experience in?

  • What is your toolkit for managing accounts?

  • How does your team keep up to date with industry changes?

  • What is your fee and how many hours a week/month does this cover?

  • What does client communication look like? Will there be weekly, monthly calls or in-person meetings? What is your response time for emails (within 24 hours)?

  • What reporting services do you offer? Is this provided weekly, monthly, quarterly?

  • What is the onboarding process and will a brand discovery session be part of this?

We hope this helps your brands to make an informed decision about whether to keep activity in-house or bring a paid media agency on-board. If you have any questions about our services and want to discuss with our team, feel free to get in touch at [email protected]