What's Next for In-House Agencies?

In-house agencies in 2021 have a lot to look forward to. Our latest field study shows that 75 percent of advertisers now have internal creative teams and the majority of digital marketing is being produced in house. The formerly heated debate over in-house vs. external agencies is becoming a smarter dialogue on how the two can work together in a hybrid agency model.

IHAF members achieved so much in 2020—the proof is all over our blog, website and social media. But it’s a new year and we’re all craving a fresh start. So, what’s next for the in-house agency community?

Doing more with less. Resource and headcount limitations continue to be among the leading challenges internal teams face, especially as demand for creative work increases. Expect in-house agencies to test integrated tools, streamlined processes and flexible team structures to become even more efficient and cost-effective in 2021.

Increased flexibility and agility. Last year taught us all how important it is to be able to pivot quickly, responding to changing business conditions and marketplace demands in real time. Even when vaccines allow us to safely resume normal activity, futureproof in-house agencies should be able to deploy virtual teams, remote productions and streamlined approvals with equal fluidity as they can in person.

Digital media planning and buying. Today, these functions are more often outsourced than performed internally. As in-house agencies continue to expand their capabilities, digital media planning/buying and programmatic are trending as areas of opportunity to explore in 2021.

From provider to partner. Producing great work is always a must, with the highest performing in-house agencies moving past the role of “order taker” to architect solutions that are on par with the best shops out there. One stellar example is Cisco Systems’ The Hatch, recently named In-House Agency of the Year. Read their story for inspiration on how to connect with audiences at a human level while unifying touchpoints across a global enterprise.

Brand activism. There’s a growing demand for brands to take a stand when it comes to various social movements, which means simply making a statement isn’t enough. To do right by consumers, in-house agencies can follow the example set by our 2020 Best of Show winner, AB InBev. This team combined social listening with a deep understanding of their audience to deliver a design solution that not only resonated with an underrepresented community but earned $3.2M USD in ad value.

Networking and professional development. At IHAF, we’re busy planning this year’s webinar series, discussion groups and conferences including a Women’s Leadership Summit in April. Pending the success of nationwide vaccinations in the months to come, we hope to resume our in-person events by late fall. Be sure to attend our virtual events in the meantime.

New IHAF members. As more in-house agencies and corporate creative teams sign on with IHAF, our full community benefits from a more-diverse set of insights and expertise. Please join me in welcoming some of our newest members, including Capital One, Cisco Systems, HBO Europe and Western Union, to the fold. I hope you’ll connect with these iconic brands and get to know your fellow IHAF members throughout the new year.

It’s an exciting time for in-house agencies and more important than ever to keep pace with the steps our members are taking. If you’re ready to help your team be more effective, you can learn more about the benefits of membership with IHAF by attending our free webinar next Thursday, January 14. I look forward to seeing you there!

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