Recently, we’ve been writing a lot about the trend of in-housing in digital marketing and technology infrastructure (advertising technology specifically). It is a trend with growing momentum and one that is likely to continue. A recent post by a colleague highlights some of the core benefits as well as the organizational considerations of bringing some or all of your digital marketing in-house along with the technology to support it. I also recently published a companion post on the procurement considerations related to Google Marketing Platform advertising technology licenses: Display & Video 360 (DV360), Campaign Manager 360 (CM360), and Search Ads 360 (SA360) This post sheds some light on how bringing marketing and technology in-house is never a standalone endeavor but part of your larger digital maturity journey built on three pillars of platforms, people, and processes.
You Need All Three Pillars to Succeed
At the risk of being a broken record on this point, you really need to get all three pillars right to get the most out of an in-housing decision. Advanced advertising technology platforms without the talent and processes in place to properly utilize the platform capabilities are just expensive investments lacking the executions that unlock their full potential.
If your marketing and data teams are filled with extremely talented people across core functional areas but they lack the technology to bring their vision to life, then you will likely end up with a group of frustrated people struggling to execute on their brilliant digital marketing strategies.
Process may not be the most glamorous pillar. However, it is easily as important as — if not more important than — the other two. Without proper processes in place, your internal teams will almost certainly work in silos of one kind or another and tasks that should be consistent, streamlined, or automated will be done in ad hoc and disparate ways, leading to disparate results. Standardizing operating models around shared documentation, including centralized data governance, measurement frameworks, data dictionary, campaign taxonomy and tagging, and campaign build and launch procedures, helps ensure that all business stakeholders benefit from your investment in the in-housing journey.
Without proper governance and operating models, it is extremely easy to end up with inconsistent, poor-quality data and marketing results simply through the lack of coordinated and consistent ways of working. The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out” is as true as ever, and whether you execute marketing directly through buying platforms (e.g. Google Ads or Microsoft Ads) or in enterprise advertising technology tools procured in-house or through your agencies, the quality of your media performance data will reflect the time and effort you devote to consistent shared data collection practices across your marketing organization.
Account for the Value Your Agency Provided
If you are shifting from an agency relationship (yes, Fortune 500s, we are talking to you), there is likely a lot of hidden value those partners have been bringing your way. Successful agencies have a set of hard won best practices, internal processes, technology infrastructure, expertise, economies of scale, and the purchasing power that comes with it. It’s also true that agencies often perform best when they are able to operate according to their own processes rather than adjust to a client’s.
It’s true that you can likely realize a number of cost savings as well as greater cost and data transparency when you in-house your digital marketing and marketing technology infrastructure. However, if you don’t account for the true value that full-service and boutique agency partners brought you, then you are likely to miss out in a big way on some of the things that are now your responsibility to get right:
- Platform Integrations
- Data Pipelines
- API Hooks
- Digital Marketing Strategy
- Campaign Briefs
- Pricing Models (working media dollars vs platform fees/tech fees/data fees/3P fees)
- Bidding Strategies
- Creative Strategy
- Creative Testing
- User Experience Optimization
- Performance Reporting & Dashboarding
- Media Analysis & Insights
- Advanced Modeling
This is not meant to scare you off but to help your organization truly own it when you make the move to bring marketing and marketing technology in-house. It is actually an opportunity to rapidly increase the marketing and data capabilities within your own organization . . . if you do it right!
Educate Yourself On and Embrace the Details
Our entire advertising ecosystem is changing in response to shifting consumer expectations around privacy, consent, and data security coevolving with local, national, and regional regulatory and legal responses. Layer in the proactive and reactive changes coming from within the global digital advertising industry itself (third-party cookie deprecation, data signal loss, increasing use of modeled data in key data/activation platforms), and you have the ingredients for rapid systemic changes.
You likely know your own business better than any vendor or partner ever could. You have direct, hands-on access to your customer file data, your CRM, overall customer experience, and your data warehouse. Now you are bringing a larger set of infrastructure into your own organization. I’ve highlighted the responsibility you have in terms of platforms, people, and process, but think of the opportunity you have at your fingertips.
Take the opportunity to implement all the API hooks, the CRM-to-cloud pipelines, the offline conversion imports, and the advanced predictive models that give you greater insights into how customer behaviors translate to long-term revenue for your business.
Do take the time to study your ad tech license agreements so that you understand clearly your own fee structure for enterprise paid search management, platform fees for programmatic media buying, and the cost basis for your centralized ad serving and media measurement. You were paying for all of this all along, and depending on the nature of your agency engagements, those fees may have been broken out more or less transparently for you. Now that you own the tech, you also own the invoices and the responsibility to understand those details. Even if you choose to embrace a hybrid in-housing model (as many organizations do), you should take it upon yourself to fully understand both the technical and financial aspects of every piece of tech you decide to own within your company.
When your own marketing team has conversations with vendors and agency partners, it is much better to come to the table already knowing the details of your campaign brief internally. If your total budget is $100,000 for an open auction programmatic buy, and you know that your Display & Video 360 fees are 15%, you will be ad-serving the media from Campaign Manager 360, and have a video ad serving upcharge of $0.60 CPM, you already know that you have about $81,000 in working media dollars when you account for your Demand-Side Platform (DSP) costs and your ad serving costs for Campaign Manager. Don’t wait for your agency to tell you this. You are going to receive the invoice for these fees if you own the tech, so understand the implications yourself.
Data should be a core decision driver for your organization. Owning your own data will help you gain more control and allow for faster insights. More reliable data will increase operational efficiency and ultimately, ROI.
To summarize, your decision to bring your marketing technology and/or digital marketing in house is not just an infrastructure decision by any stretch of the imagination. It is a digital transformation decision. Organizational change and change management is at the heart of a successful endeavor. The platforms are a big internal infrastructure investment and will increase your in-house capabilities, technically speaking, but the platforms largely rely on being set up properly in terms of configuration and integration. It is the people and process components that will determine the success or failure of your endeavor long term.
Let us know if you’d like to speak with one of our Digital Transformation, Digital Media, or Media Analysis & Insights experts. We are committed to helping companies such as yours succeed. We’d love to hear from you and get the conversation started.