In-house Team vs Advertising Agency - Which to Choose?

Jose Kantola

Marketing

Every company with an online presence will face the question of whether to build an in-house online marketing team or to outsource to a specialised agency. The question first pops up when starting online marketing operations, but may become relevant later on, as marketing needs and goals change over time.

To make the decision easier for you, we combined our thoughts on what we’ve seen work for advertisers across several industries, market areas and marketing approaches. Here’s a quick rundown of the benefits of both models, the different types of ad tech providers on the market and a checklist for decision making.

In-house Team - Efficient Revenue Machine

  • Having an in-house marketing team with a 100% focus on your customers’ behaviour and how to engage them is ultimately the best way to maximise marketing output towards company targets. Everything you test adds specifically to your company’s internal knowledge base, which can also be useful for other teams.
  • Easy access to internal data and other teams allows for easy cooperation with your business intelligence team and customer information databases. Optimising and customising ad delivery towards the most valuable target audiences is a most effective way to improve marketing results, and cross-team efforts are key to finding those audiences.
  • Members of internal teams are by default expected to have a high level of motivation and commitment towards reaching company goals. Building in-house teams of skilled and motivated people establishes a basis for continuous improvement.
  • Minimising the number of communication steps between campaign design, approval and launch adds to speed and agility of operations, making it easier to react to sudden changes and opportunities.

Agency - Flexible Industry Expert

  • Hiring an agency to manage your advertising campaigns is ultimately the fastest way to get trained industry experts working on your advertising. Agencies’ core business relies on their employees’ expertise, which they will put to use in your advertising. You save time and effort through not having to find and recruit suitable talent.
  • Agencies work with several customers simultaneously, which gives them knowledge and best practices across many advertisers and verticals and the possibility to leverage them in your campaigns.
  • Agency deals are often flexible to meet your needs even when the scale of advertising increases or decreases heavily. Their expertise is less tied to individual employees than yours would be if you hired a person or team in-house. Lower fixed costs and dependency on individuals equals less risk for you.
  • Working on just one single project may stifle creativity. Agencies can provide extremely varied experiences for their creative teams, keeping them inspired and up-to-date. The benefit for you can be innovative and exciting campaigns that an in-house team wouldn’t have thought of.

Equip Your Team with the Right Tools

Regardless of which approach you choose, even a world class team won’t meet their true potential without the tools to match their capabilities. Marketing platforms like Facebook provide free tools for managing your advertising, and they work very well for many advertisers. If you feel that those tools are no longer fulfilling your needs - be it due to missing features, a need for automating daily routines or simply a bad match to your workflows at larger scale - it might be time to look for an alternative tool.

Ad tech providers can generally be divided into three categories based on their service models:

  • Fully self-serve tools are often cheaper and provide additional possibilities on top of what the free tools offer. The operating model remains the same - your team is still responsible for all your advertising, educating themselves and so on.
  • Self-service solutions with extensive support are more comprehensive and offer consulting and other support in addition to their technology. Super advanced tools can lose much of their power without a proper understanding of how to use them. We’ve learned that the best results are usually achieved with a combination of advanced tools and related consulting, best practices, and training to get maximal benefits out of those tools.
  • Managed services are technology partners just like the self-serve tools, but they also take care of managing your advertising, which positions them between agencies and self-serve tools. If you’re considering a managed service tool, we recommend evaluating their tool quality and development agility, and the quality of their campaign management teams separately just like when choosing a self-serve tool or agency.

The choice of 3rd party tools matters even for companies who chose the agency model, where you’re not using the tools directly yourself. Agencies can use these tools to maximize the output of the team taking care of your advertising. This can mean more conversions for your budget or access to new features and formats before your competitors. A great example of this is how some advertisers got access to Facebook’s Carousel Ad format way before others through 3rd party tools that partnered with Facebook in developing it. Finally, agencies can also benefit from the expanded training and knowledge resources available through some ad tech providers.

Time to Decide?

Here is a checklist of questions to consider to make your decision easier:

In-house:

  • Can I find or afford a seasoned marketing pro to handle my campaigns?
  • If not, do I have enough knowledge internally to train someone more junior for the position?
  • Do I know what I want to achieve and am I able to put significant resources behind getting there?
  • Will my marketing team be able to handle everything or do I need additional designer resources etc. to support them? Do I already have such resources?
  • Can my marketing team react to changing requirements?

Agency:

  • Does the agency have experience in my market and vertical?
  • What is the agency’s commission model, does it scale and is there a lock-in if results are not good?
  • Will they handle everything for me or will I need to for e.g. provide images and ad texts for them?
  • Are we able to mutually agree on clear and measurable goals for the cooperation?

Good luck in the hunt for the best solution for you. Do you already have experiences choosing between in-house and agency and finding the right tools? Do share them with us in the comments.