The In-House Solution: Why Keeping Media Strategists Bundled is Better for Business

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In the past decade, the term “outsourcing” has gained enormous currency—a fact that is due as much to the growth of the digital marketplace as to anything else. It’s a phrase that’s become synonymous with employing workers in foreign countries at great savings to businesses here at home; for most business executives it’s a word with positive connotations.

But as with any other concept, there are spheres in which outsourcing just doesn’t make the grade. And one of them may turn out to be the world of media buying and planning.

What’s the problem with outsourcing your media work? Pause to consider what can get lost in translation. Though the broad-spectrum unbundling of media in recent years produced a situation in which media buying and planning increasingly became stand-alones, many industry experts feel that this dynamic adds risk to the system where it shouldn’t be. Outsourcing by its nature produces a middleman, one that, in this case, sits directly between the advertiser and the agency—and that’s rarely a good thing. So while the agency’s creative people can work hard to create a clever and innovative campaign for the advertiser, translating that concept to the properties the media planner decides on stands a decent chance of becoming diminished or confused if the work is passing through various, tenuously connected channels.

Which is why, from a practical standpoint, an in-house solution makes all the sense in the world. It offers the opportunity to bring an entire team—creative, technology and the media strategists—together, to keep a clean line of communication open regarding the advertiser’s goals, all while minimizing the risk of that “lost in translation” effect. In-house strategies have certainly worked for magic agencies like Crispin, Porter + Bogusky and Organic; ask any number of industry veterans and they’re happy to explain why.

“I personally am a great believer that the ideal is to have an in-house media planning department,” says Cindy Gallop, former chairman of BBH, via email from Sydney, “because for any communications campaign to be effective, the media strategy should flow from, and be developed concurrently with, the brand strategy and the creative approach. The best and most effective media strategies are just as creative in their own way as the actual communications creative work, and quite often the synergy between media and creative, when both are working together to get to the final solution, can spark and inspire the actual creative work, just as much as the other way round. At the end of the day, that is what leads to a truly effective, all around creatively developed, planned and executed campaign.”

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