25 Jun 2019

Does ‘in-housing’ content production bring home the bacon?

It seems everyone from Unilever to Lego is at it. Rationalising outsourced agency relationships. And bringing a lot – and I mean a lot – of content production inside business operations. Is this a cyclical re-evaluation of outsourcing? Yes. But it also reflects the times we’re living in. Heightened economic uncertainty puts costs under scrutiny. This makes in-housing seem a sensible option. But is it really?

The road to in-housing content

Marketing too is becoming more complex and blurred inside big brands. Social media has disrupted traditional marcoms. This spills into CRM and stakeholder management. Cascading throughout a business into the very shop window of ecommerce. Where content is at once advertising, product demonstration and data touch-point.

Ten years ago, an in-house marketing team might oversee strategy and project management. Now, in an accelerating digital environment they are part of content production.

The situation is so fluid that the concept of a marketing team split from its younger disruptive ‘digital’ sibling is a non-starter. Barriers  between marketing and digital are no longer fit for purpose. There is no marketing that is not digitally disrupted. But the new ‘social’ kid-on-the-block is thought to be one of the easier agency services to in-house. With its copywriting, hashtagging, following, responding and scheduling requirements.

Social media (and all that comes with it)

Is in-house social output is as effective as an agency at boosting engagement and SEO? The question is moot. But it is easy to see how the low hanging fruit of social media creation becomes the first in-house marketing mandate. This given the minimal investment threshold of setting up or taking over social media platforms.

But actually, is it as simple as that?

The world of the internet is a mighty digital ecosystem. It has a logic that requires a whole content infrastructure to support its demands. It is insatiable when it comes to content. This is why programmatic has sprung up. To feed the never-ending need for stuff to consume, comment on, throw away and start again. It is also why a lot of bought content is rubbish. Followed closely by hours of user generated tripe.

But bringing one part of content creation in-house means managing a Pandora’s Box of supporting material. Barclaycard and Honda have decided to go the whole hog and mimic the agency system. Far from being a cost-cutting decision, this has upfront and immediate budgetary implications. From recruitment and retention to equipment. From expertise to implementation and agency overlap. And there is still the same need to strategise and manage the whole shebang as before.

Integrate to innovate

Integration of outsourced agency function is the holy grail of in-housing. It brings with it cost efficiency, smooth and co-operative operations. And closer cohesion of purpose and message. After all, no-one knows better than those inside a business its products and service. But there’s also a question of whether the content is any good or just bland. And, further down the line, whether the whole system will be adequately funded.

I believe specialist agencies that offer value and digital transformation will thrive. Particularly in the years of in-housing.

The truth is that business is best doing what it does in producing its goods and/or services. It may have leeway in its core marketing team to integrate and produce content. But most companies don’t have an internal agency system set up to cover every campaign eventuality.

Whether your next project needs aerial or underwater video footage. A professional studio location. A Felix Baumgartner jumping from space. A packaging design advisor. Only outsourced resources can provide these. In the end, this will be the most cost effective and sure-fire way to keep the project on track and deliver the goods.

By Nicky Robertson, Director