Brand Leaders Share In-House Agency Woes and Wows at In-Housing Agency ANA Conference

In late March, the ANA’s held its first In-Housing Agency Conference in Orlando and AffinityX was thrilled to be in attendance. There were many interesting presentations and panels throughout the event, with from-the-inside views shared by leaders from Disney, Electronic Arts (EA), Nationwide, Chobani and The Wonderful Company, to name a few.

They articulated that in-house agencies face these common challenges:

    1. Increasing Workload
      One theme shared by all the presenters was the challenge of ‘do more with the same’. ANA’s 2018 In-House Agency Report supported this with data: 90% of respondents report that in-house workload is increasing and 68% report challenges with managing workflow due to increased work. The conference attendees weighed in on this as well, with 43% agreeing that they did not have enough capacity/resources. One Fortune 5 company noted they managed more than 18,000 tactics with their in-house team last year, with more growth on the way, while another noted they bill more than 250,000 hours per year to internal clients.


    1. Hiring Challenges
      One well-known brand that runs its own internal trading desk/media team admitted to the audience that it is difficult to attract the talent they need, as they are competing with tech companies that pay high salaries and agencies that have clear career paths. Brands also noted their need to create the right working environment to attract talent; one company spent millions to create an office for their team, while others create distinct brands to separate the in-house agency from the corporate master brand. With the majority of in-house work focused on creative (creatives are three-quarters of the headcount for some brand agencies), partnering with corporate HR to target and hire the right candidates is often a challenge. The creative employee often has different expectations for not only work environment but also career progression and work variety and visibility.AffinityX execs also heard “hiring challenges” as a common refrain in our own private discussions at the event. In-house agencies struggle to bring the right people on board, which signals the strong need for effective hiring strategies that include flexible and alternative solutions, such as outsourcing.
    2. Not Everything is In-House
      Many of the presenting brands noted they still work with advertising agencies (as many as 16!) to get access to unique skills, an outside perspective, or even just talent when needed during crunch times. Common areas where agencies are used included: broadcast television advertising, events/experiential marketing, media buying, and influencer marketing. In-house agencies often focus on areas where their unique, homegrown perspective drives value, such as sales support, product packaging, and content marketing.


  1. Need for Speed
    Perhaps the most urgent concern that was voiced was that in-house agencies are being asked to create content and media plans “at a rate they have never been asked before, and it is getting faster and faster.” Process improvements — such as implementing one standard workflow system, adding project managers to their team, and dictating that creative briefs must be used to request work — are three common methods leaders reported implementing to address this challenge. Additionally, outsourcing work such as revisions and versioning lessens the burdens on internal creatives so that they can focus more on their internal client’s strategic needs.