“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
Digital transformation isn’t “one size fits all.” It requires a custom mix of company culture, centralization and collaboration. Digital transformation is the process of using technology to create new business processes. One component includes programmatic in-housing which internalizes omnichannel planning and buying to drive greater ROI.
In our last article we dug into four complexities of an in-house model. The focus of this article is on six pillars that will solidify your foundation. If done correctly, brands realize up to a 2X ROI improvement.
Upskilling & Adoption
Training is paramount to building a premiere in-house model. Brands must identify knowledge gaps and fill them with simplified curriculum facilitated by transformation experts. Custom curriculum can cost from $150,000 to over $500,000, but will ensure adoption and application.
- Identify knowledge gaps, determine use cases and document roles/responsibilities.
- There are different ways to create greater control and transparency. The brand can own strategy by designing roadmaps while the agency handles buying, optimization and measurement. Or external buying experts can be hired to focus solely on programmatic planning and buying. These players are usually smaller and more agile and have emerged due to agency gaps. The most ambitious route is complete internalization of media buying activities.
- Identify the tech you need, each partner’s role and how they will streamline operations.
- Develop standardized accountability requirements (AKA toolkits) needed for successful implementation. These can include briefs, reporting templates, checklists, roles and responsibilities.
- Develop a communication strategy to ensure people are actually using the accountability standards.
How will you attract the best talent from the FAANGs?
- Assess what roles and responsibilities are needed.
- Prioritize skill sets into “must haves”, “nice to haves” and “can do withouts.”
- Align with HR, corporate and recruitment as roles are identified.
- Target the companies to source your talent. Our analysis has found ad tech talent can cost up to 25% more than agency talent. If you’re not prepared to invest, you won’t pull talent from the FAANGs. Agency talent tends to be overworked and underpaid, which is why in-housing began in the first place.
- Hire people with an entrepreneurial spirit and the hunger to learn. Also, look for people who can communicate complex concepts simply. We’ll go into that with more detail in a future article.
- Promote retention with a clear career path. Your planners/buyers should be able to gain marketing expertise.
Prior to transformation, brands must identify and educate internal stakeholders.
- Large companies must ensure finance, data, media, IT, legal and brand teams are fully aligned to in-housing. Success is only as strong as the weakest link in your chain, and all parties must commit. This alignment is less important for companies with 2,500 or less employees.
- When pitching internal stakeholders, it normally takes someone 10 times before they understand. Try, try and try again.
- Identify key accountability tools. These include a programmatic brief that translates the media brief into a programmatic proposal; a campaign checklist that outlines planning/activation responsibilities and timelines; and reporting standards your activation team must use to maximize transparency and ROI.
The minimum ad stack requires an ad server, which links your creative message to the placement, a DSP to automate buying and a brand safety partner to guard against fraudulent impressions.
- After identifying your tech requirements, develop a “Request for Proposal” and initiate vendor negotiations.
- Own contracts to maximize control, transparency and value.
- Determine if you will collect your consumer data or if you will use a second or third party provider for targeting.
- If you plan on owning the data, determine which data storage provider (e.g. DMP or CDP) you will use, and replicate steps one through three. A DMP collects consumer data to enable more precise targeting, while a CDP aggregates and organizes customer data across business units to create a holistic customer view.
- Design a set of guidelines to promote the consistent application of learning expectations. These are important because they clarify data use cases and targeting opportunities. They also help to determine how to implement and remain compliant with all rules and regulations.
Ways of Working
Determining how you approach campaigns in-house depends on the number you run, and not the amount you invest. If you’re already working with an agency, it’s not recommended that you transition all of your campaigns at once.
- Consider moving 25% of campaigns in-house as a test and compare performance to agency activation.
- For greater control, brand leads should set up DSP alerts to mitigate risk. These alerts are triggered based on budget, performance and brand safety. For example, if your $30,000 media budget is pacing too fast, cap your DSP budget to ensure you don’t overspend. Set email alerts warning when you’re close to max budget delivery. These alerts can also help you ensure agency accountability. For instance, the agency might claim they optimize daily, when they are only looking at the platform weekly.
- Set investment accountability cadence to understand how budgets are being used.
- Monitor allocation through quarterly check-ins and document postmortem learnings for future action plans.
- Construct a testing framework to prove if the ROI will cover your in-house investment.
Finance & Billing
Processing payment isn’t fun, but it’s important. If you don’t pay, your technology and inventory access will be shut down. Most brands forget to consider billing management when taking things in-house.
- Determine if your agency will continue to handle the billing for your in-house model. Traditionally, an agency activates programmatic on your behalf and the brand pays one entity. As a brand contracts more technology directly, and takes buying in-house, they must pay multiple invoices.
- Choose if the agency will continue to process the bills, or if the brand wants to take on that responsibility. You will likely incur additional resources and non-working costs to facilitate billing.
In-housing isn’t about reinventing the wheel. It’s about simplifying and standardizing.
In our next article we will discuss the ingredients needed for talent sourcing and retention.