The rise of the in-house agency has been a favorite topic among marketers in recent years as more brands take media buying and creative inside in order to cut costs and manage output. While some brands have been slowly moving responsibilities away from agencies, the pandemic accelerated the trend as marketers went in-house in search of more flexibility and agility.
Three years ago, the Association of National Advertisers ran a survey finding that 78% of its members have some form of in-house team. That figure is now closer to 85%, estimates Bill Duggan, ANA's group executive VP. And 55% of marketers surveyed by ANA say in-housing is one of their most important resources for producing new creative assets, according to findings revealed this week at ANA's annual in-house conference, which first began in 2019 and was held virtually this year.
“The momentum from in-house has not slowed down,” Duggan said during the event, noting that as brands move to a cookie-less world and first-party data becomes more important, in-house teams are “closer to the action.”
Below, key takeaways from the two-day conference.
During lockdowns, when restrictions and rules were changing at a moment’s notice, restaurant chains were especially burdened with providing accurate messaging to customers. Since things like closing times could change on a town-by-town or state-by-state basis, Checkers Drive-In Restaurants Inc., the 900-unit restaurant chain, relied heavily on its in-house agency to keep up and change communication quickly.
“We literally had to develop all of our marketing materials for the year in advance to give us the flexibility on a market-by-market basis,” said Dwayne Chambers, chief marketing officer. “The traditional model would pull in a bunch of agencies and consultants… the ability for us to have this group internally was really important.”
Similarly, TD Bank’s internal studio, called Studio 361 after the Pantone shade of the brand’s green logo, handled all quick turnarounds for the bank during the pandemic. Working to execute ideas from agency partner TBWA, the department—which typically handles 60% of TD Bank’s overall creative workload—built a virtual queue for customers and helped with curbside delivery of debit card replacements.
“We shut off all the business-as-usual marketing work and pivoted to crisis communications,” said Karyn DiMattia, senior VP and head of Studio 361. “I have no idea how TD would have survived 2020 if we didn’t have our in-house agency in place and up and running.”