Why do we attend industry conferences? Having just returned from the Association of National Advertisers' "Masters of Marketing" event, here's one hypothesis: We gather to validate that our problems are not unique, our challenges are conquerable and our industry can soldier on based on the commitment of the community.
Growth was the focus of this year's agenda and refreshingly, the prescription went beyond "Big Data" or "Go Digital." But it seemed that one strategy was ever-present as the path forward at ANA: in-housing.
It's human nature to want to take over control in times of change. But has in-housing yet been proven to drive growth? The issue isn't where creative and media solutions are produced, but how we're enabling creativity. By honing in on in-housing, we are once again at risk of simply chasing the next 'thing we need to do.'
We've seen this movie before, when programmatic in-house became the perceived silver bullet—but the silver turned out to be more expensive in time and talent than bargained for.
Savings pressures are very real, and cost efficiencies are the No. 1 reason for in-housing, according to the ANA's latest member survey. But these (presumed) cost efficiencies can come at the cost of attention to growth. Shouldn't we all strive to solve for our growth challenges instead?
There is an alternative path—one with less disruption and distraction, and one that's in our collective control. At Masters, we heard a number of marketers talk about new ways of working, confessing to their own internal challenges of bureaucracy and inefficiency, and the risk of losing the next generation of talent as a result. SCRUM teams, sprints and agile processes—this is a new vernacular in our industry, and with these words come new approaches that bring decision-making closer to solution-making.
Imagine if that commitment to internal transformation with speed could be channeled to a new way of working with agencies and media, data and technology partners. By optimizing ways of working with partners—rather than rushing to build an internal agency that needs care and feeding—we can get to growth faster.
Where to begin? How about a clearly-defined business challenge, a core team of agency and external partners at the table at the same time, and a shared commitment to urgency, agility and transparency that unites all partners around the cause?
Marketers, share more context on your business challenges, empower the best talent to focus on your business with senior-level access, be willing to walk away from habitual processes (and presentations) that don't drive decisions, and commit to being the best partner—and together we can unlock the ideas and the energy needed to drive your business forward.
Agencies and partners, bring your best talent, an open mind and a commitment to work with (vs. compete with) everyone at the table, and push your management to accept the new reality of collaboration over competition.
Before we march down the path of in-housing, let's ask some simple questions: Is building an internal operation a path to purchase and customer loyalty? Or could it be an operational distraction at the expense of attention to growth?
If the answers aren't crystal clear to your organization, then maybe it's time to step back and consider the alternative: a more collaborative partnership and a shared commitment to growth.
Amanda Richman is the U.S. CEO of Wavemaker.