News & Insights

The 10 Challenges for Media In-sourcing

We will be shortly publishing our third Media 2020 report, our industry survey of how brands are preparing their business for the future media ecosystem.

One topic which figures prominently in our research this year is media in-sourcing. While very few brands have taken the plunge to in-source all their biddable media activation, many more are actively considering it.

In our research we discovered 10 challenges for media in-sourcing.

1- Sourcing and retaining the right talent. Brands don’t have quite the same access to talent pools as agencies and working client-side is attractive for many media specialists, but is not for everyone.

2- Staying current and informed. Whereas agencies have daily interaction and visibility across multiple client types, technology platforms and vendors, brand media teams are more isolated from the marketplace. Putting in place ongoing training and career development is another investment which takes time and effort to build and is especially important for in-house teams to avoid hazards such as “group-think”.

3- External benchmarking of performance. A client in-house team lacks the range of sector, format and platform performance data which an agency trading team is constantly analysing and acting upon to optimise campaigns.

4- The burden of Adtech management. Servicing a broad cross-section of client types, agencies are set up to switch or flex across ad technologies, which is more difficult for in-house teams.

5- Building and managing a culture. A more nuanced challenge, but a real one according to agency leaders. “Rome was not built in a day”

6- Cost of ownership. It is clear that short term savings can be made by in-housing the media function but justifying the cost of resource and extra headcount with further improvements in media productivity in year two, three and four gets more difficult. Maintaining momentum, funding and the infrastructure behind in-housing requires continuous oversight and investment.

7- Disruption to BAU (Business as usual). Putting in place in-sourcing programmes are time-consuming, complex and involve a lot of people, which can take attention and resources away from marketing innovation elsewhere.

8- The risk and complexity of managing multiple media, data & technology vendors. Agencies take on the responsibility for negotiating commercial terms and legal contracts with tech vendors, another big commitment for brands to take on.

9- No throat to choke. Agency leaders are quick to point out that when things go wrong, they are there to stand up, take the flak and put crisis measures in place.

10- Integrating ways of working between in-house media teams, internal marketing teams and external agency teams is another challenge. Strong management and communication skills are a pre-requisite to avoid disjointed project management.   

Brands which commit to in-sourcing media are effectively committing to set up and run their own media agency – a significant (but achievable) challenge and an unpalatable one for most organisations.

So, the number of companies which choose to fully in-source media will remain in a minority, given the qualifying hurdles above. We expect the majority to realise their own version of “in-housing”, securing specific elements of their agency scope of work, taking direct control over more supply chain contracts, or recruiting experts to ensure they remain informed and actively engaged in the media ecosystem.

MediaSense have successfully advised and transitioned a number of brands through this journey so if you are seeking support in this area, please contact us at

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest media insights