The numbers didn’t seem to make sense — or at the very least, they defied conventional thinking.

Just as marketers were wrapping up key activities before the recent holiday season, a research report came out about the interest among brands to take at least some of the buying and placement of advertising through programmatic technologies from agencies and build up their in-house team. We’ve all probably seen these kinds of studies by now, to the point where the future seems almost inevitable. Except that this time around, the statistics suggested something different.

Conducted for Research Intelligencer by Advertiser Perceptions, the survey of more than 300 marketers and ad agency execs showed that 38% of brands are thinking about taking some or all programmatic duties in-house. Among the portion of ad agency professionals who responded, however, the proportion was even higher, at 44%. The research also showed that a small portion of marketers (5%) who have taken the in-house route have changed course and given programmatic work back to their agencies, with “lack of core competency” as the No. 1 reason. The data might raise some eyebrows: is digital internationalization a reality, or just a matter of hype?

The answer is probably that moving towards in-house programmatic appeal to brands but requires some more consideration and planning. As a recent story on MediaPost pointed out, there is a big difference between reviewing your use of a media agency and getting rid of one altogether. Instead, most marketers determine how to supplement media agencies, rather than replacing them. This is an exercise In separating the tactical activities they’re prepared to take on versus the access to premium media a third party can offer — as well as a wealth of deep knowledge.

Let’s face it: in-house programmatic involves making a lot of key decisions around investment, technology and — perhaps most critically — the kind of talent that marketing departments of the future will need to hire and develop. Beyond technical skill sets, a recent article talked about “programmatic culture,” and why brands need to keep it top of mind:

“With many brands and agencies speaking about taking programmatic in-house, we have to keep in mind, programmatic requires a certain set of skill sets, cross-functional team culture and aptitude to grasp the latest developments in this dynamic industry,” the article said. “Brands and agencies that don’t have the same internal expertise in programmatic will struggle to deliver effective and competitive campaigns.”

This doesn’t mean marketers should do nothing. It just means they might need more of a thoughtful roadmap that illustrates what in-house programmatic involves, how to weigh full-scale internationalization vs. a hybrid approach and more.


MediaNet recently produced a white paper that covers all these areas and more. If you’re thinking about in-house programmatic, download Digital internalization: A Practical Guide today.