What People Get Wrong About In-Housing

Brand Aware” explores the data-driven digital ad ecosystem from the marketer’s point of view.

Today’s column is written by Josh Palau, vice president of media strategy and platforms at Bayer Consumer Health US.

In-housing isn’t a fleeting trend or small blip on the radar. This is a new way of working that is critical to brands and how they survive.

In October 2018, Bayer CH announced a partnership with MightyHive to help us bring our media in house. Since then, I’ve had very enlightening conversations with my peers across brands, agencies and tech partners. It’s been great to learn about how others are approaching in-housing – and even offer advice.

But I’ve also encountered misconceptions about in-housing and our own plan that are important to address.

‘What’s the endgame?’

Iron Man Tony Stark once said, “Part of the journey is the end,” and though in-housing is not intergalactic warfare, there is an important lesson to be learned.

People don’t often think about the end when planning the journey, which is a huge miss. Our endgame model is that in 2020, all digital media planning, buying, optimization and analytics will be done in house. Having a clear and thought-out goal allows us to build a comprehensive plan to get there and identify who to involve to make it happen.

In-housing has implications for legal, finance, HR, recruiting and marketing, which requires brands to establish new processes or change existing ones. Starting with the end establishes what will be impacted and prepares the organization for the road ahead.

I’d argue that some in-house projects stall because they lack a clear endgame. With the goal established, brands can turn their focus to the types of partnerships they need and the right mindset.

‘Aren’t you just switching agencies?’

Whether a brand’s end state is a blended model or fully in house, it can’t just switch agencies – it needs to find a partner that shares its vision and will help it to get there.

After years of having a digital media agency, Bayer needed a partner that could help us set up the backend architecture and allow us to own contracts, with the full understanding that our partnership would come to an end when we take the reins.

People have asked, “Aren’t you just switching agencies,” which really grinds my gears because that is the wrong mentality. Yes, MightyHive is an agency, but we have found the best partner for our vision.

‘So, you’re building an in-house agency?’

One of the biggest benefits of bringing digital media in house is to make the organization better. The internal agency doesn’t achieve that. Bayer is not building an in-house agency, and that’s not something I’ve ever aspired to do.

The challenge with an in-house agency is that you can fall into bad behaviors, such as not being transparent, and you’re not as integrated with the business. I believe that for organizations to get better at digital, they must have more embedded expertise.

In our center of excellence model, having a search expert who provides guidance across the portfolio of brands is good, but it’s more powerful to have a search expert who is embedded with the brand. They are leveraging subject matter expertise while also being immersed in the brand category.

In-housing will continue to be a bit of a “choose your own adventure,” with no one model or process being ideal for every organization. However, aligning your end state and mindset are important first steps to understanding which model is right for your brand and the best way to get there.

Follow Josh Palau (@TheOfficialJP3), Bayer Consumer Health (@Bayer4SelfCare) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

Enjoying this content?

Sign up to be an AdExchanger Member today and get unlimited access to articles like this, plus proprietary data and research, conference discounts, on-demand access to event content, and more!

Join Today!


  1. Bob Oliva

    Great info Josh, brands need to own the delivery of their unique brand value proposition.

  2. Great points. The acid test or boxes to check in order to claim programmatic in-housing is 3-fold:
    1. Own all or at least the necessary tech contracts
    2. Become the owner and leader of end-to-end programmatic campaign processes. Set the rules and incentivize/manage against them
    3. Vet, know and put the right HOK team in place. There are a variety of choices, the key is cultural fit, reliability and flexibility of the staffing model.

    Checking #1 and #2 = in-house. Staffing of internal resources is not necessary to claim in-house status, but when #3 is brought in-house, one has almost reached the end of the in-house spectrum. The real end is about winning with programmatic and doing ir better than any other alternative. Auctions are about competing, winning what is valuable to you and paying the right price at the end of day.

    The ultimate test: Does the boss know what to do with programmatic and can the boss get people and machines to do what he/she knows?