How to Build an In-House Agency


How can my brand bring media or creative in-house?


Taking media and creative in-house has become one of the most talked-about trends in marketing. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and not every organization will find in-housing media to be beneficial when weighing the initial investment costs against the savings in agency fees.

Eve Asbury, the in-house specialist and co-lead of the creative team at Boathouse, stressed the importance of building a sense of purpose and connection with staff, not to mention hiring more "makers," stating in an article for ANA: 

"You need more makers than managers. The majority of in-house agencies have too many managers. This causes more meetings than necessary, as well as too many cooks in the kitchen, both of which take time away from the makers doing the work.

Culture, camaraderie and a sense of purpose are the final components needed to build a healthy in-house agency. The pandemic required everyone to find different ways of working, but as a service department, the in-house agency team had the additional pressure of keeping stressed peers happy.

The most successful in-house teams are driven with a strong sense of purpose and a positive culture, and it's this foundation that gives them the agility and resilience to deal with new challenges."

Below are helpful best practices, examples, and case studies.

Best Practices and Benchmarks

  • ANA In-House Agency Fact Book. ANA, January 2022.
    The ANA In-House Agency Fact Book highlights the structure, capabilities, and operations of in-house agencies at ANA corporate member companies. The fact book serves as a reference point for other in-house agencies and those looking to learn more or start their own in-house agency. Each fact sheet explores an in-house agency's capabilities, organizational chart (where provided), and other key data points.

  • 2021 In-House Creative Industry Report. ANA/Cella, September 2021.
    Cella surveyed nearly 400 leaders across creative teams and agencies, representing Fortune 500 companies, mid-market businesses and nonprofit organizations, to gain insight into industry standards, and best practices. The report also documents notable achievements of creative teams that successfully pivoted in response to COVID-19.
  • How To Build Your In-House Agency for True Success. ANA, June 2022.
    With the promise of higher Marketing Return on Investment, MROI, the shift of work from external agencies to the in-house agency model continues to increase. It's an easy model to justify — if the in-house delivers. The in-house team is the determining factor; just a decade ago, getting the right team in place would have been extremely difficult.

    Fortunately, the pendulum has swung, and today more people want to go client side. So, with this hurdle removed, why is it that some in-house agencies are better at delivering results than others? How do they do it and are the learnings that others can apply? Eve Asbury, inhouse specialist and co-lead of the creative team at Boathouse, discusses these questions in this article.

  • At an ANA Media Conference, attendees were surveyed while GSK and JP Morgan presented on the benefits of in-housing (both in general and for media). Some of the survey results included the benefits of having an in-house agency:

  • Global Trends in Creative In-Housing. WFA/Observatory International, September 2020.
    A WFA survey found that the top benefit of having in-house creative services given by respondents was cost efficiencies, so it's understandable many of them would be realizing cost savings. For instance, 69 percent stated that by having an in-house agency they had achieved savings of 6 percent upwards in the last 12 months, with 48 percent seeing savings of over 20 percent. Brands calculate these figures by comparison against external agency fees and production costs, using industry body benchmarks and cost indexes:


  • Advocate Aurora Health: Bringing Creative In-House. ANA, April 2022.
    Advocate Aurora Health ended a 13-year relationship with their agency of record and brought all creative in-house. They spoke about how that energized and revitalized their brand and people. Executive director of brand Mickey Ramirez shared Advocate Aurora Health's journey and how their once small in-house team could compete against external agencies to win the business, live the brand, and deliver cost efficiency for the organization.

  • Building HP Studio as an Engine of Growth. ANA, March 2022.
    In 2019, Hewlett-Packard launched its first-ever in-house agency, called HP Studio. During his session at the 2022 ANA In-House Agency Conference, Carlos Ricardo, global head of marketing services and creative production at HP, discussed the creation of HP Studio, its structure, and responsibilities, how it has evolved in the three years since its inception, and some of the key lessons he and his team have learned along the way.
  • Orangetheory Fitness: Motivating More Life. ANA, March 2022.
    At Orangetheory Fitness, "More Life" is more than a campaign tagline. It's a brand purpose packaged into an inspiring, emotional promise that members can believe in. Chief brand officer Kevin Keith spoke to how Orangetheory's in-house creative team is playing a role in motivating a shared community of almost one million members across the globe to live longer, more vibrant lives through their workout.

  • Embracing Wonderful. ANA, March 2022.
    In 2007, Wonderful Agency was established as a full-service in-house marketing communications agency for The Wonderful Company and its roster of brands. In the years that followed, the agency expanded its repertoire of services. Here speakers from The Wonderful Company talked about how they operate their unique in-house model, as well as successes and lessons learned along the way.

  • Tractor Supply Co: Balancing Internal and External Creative Teams. ANA, February 2022.
    Tractor Supply Co. and Petsense provided an overview of their in-house journey and its evolution to best support a fast-moving publicly traded company. Eric Jackson, VP of creative, covered details around the creative partners and processes they use to ensure they are nimble and strategic by allowing a variety of projects to live at the same time.


  • In-Housing at T-Mobile: A Story of Transformation and Value Creation. ANA, June 2022.
    T-Mobile and in-housing consulting partner Media.Monks explained how they created an in-housing strategy and executed a smooth transition through collaboration based on openness, flexibility, and an unparalleled focus on people. This in-housing model has not only delivered on the two main objectives outlined above, but importantly has also created a culture of transparency and trust that has gained attention throughout the T-Mobile organization.

  • The Benefits and Challenges of In-Housing Mass Media. ANA, March 2022.
    In-housing services back to the marketer that have traditionally been handled by outside agencies has been one of the biggest trends in the industry. Often such in-housing starts with "low-hanging fruit" (e.g., collateral and promotions) and then digital/social (given fast turnarounds required). Some marketers have ventured to take mass media in-house, including ADT Security Services, where media is now fully in-house and has been for almost three years. Their presentation can be found here.
  • Behind Cooper Tire's Hybrid In-House Strategy. ANA, June 2021.
    Cooper's head of media and content distribution shared what happened to make the tire manufacturing company start thinking differently and the steps it took to bring a portion of media in-house, as well as the impact of this hybrid strategy.

  • I Don't Know Much, But I Know I Need a Contract: In-Housing Media. ANA, April 2021.
    In-housing is everywhere in marketing land. Marketers are "in-housing" creative and media and everything else in between. It's happening at different speeds and in various flavors, all in the name of better, faster, cheaper, and with (hopefully) more transparency. This session provided practical tips for legal teams to make sure the right questions get asked before the contract gets negotiated. It all starts with a simple question: What is the trade? And how does this provider fit into the advertising ecosystem?

Webinars and Podcasts

  • In-Housing for Speed and Relevancy: Lessons Learned Over a Five-Year Journey. ANA, November 2021.
    Five years ago, the PGA TOUR marketing team started with a clean sheet of paper and asked themselves one key question: What would it take to be able to execute at the speed and frequency that their fans expect in today's world? That question became the start of a five-year journey during which the TOUR in-housed most of its creative and media agency needs, transforming the PGA TOUR from a traditional client/agency model to one of the leading innovators in professional sports marketing. In this session, VP of marketing Tom Kuhn shared some of the key lessons learned along the way and discussed what's next for the TOUR in the continuing evolution of their in-house capability.

  • The Proliferation of In-House Agencies. ANA, August 2021.
    This episode of Champions of Growth tackles the growth of in-house agencies and the widespread impact on the marketing field. Here to discuss the issue and what it means for brands and organizations: Aleka Sansom, executive creative director at red house creative, Vanguard's in-house ad agency, and Jack Teuber, managing director and creative leader at PwC and head of the company's "the creative team," the company's in-house agency.


  • In-House Agency vs. External Agency Model. ANA/Demand Metric, April 2018.
    With this tool, you can review your in-house agency vs. external agency model and evaluate the different options available when it comes to considering the best mix of in-house and external agency resources.

  • Build vs. Buy Decision Matrix. ANA/Demand Metric, April 2018.
    Use this matrix to compare your options for in-house builds vs. outsourced solutions.


  • In-House Agency Committee.
    The In-House Agency Committee is for client-side marketers that manage the creative and/or operations of their in-house agency, including other in-house marketing work. Those interested in starting an in-house agency or learning more about in-house marketing also are welcome to participate. While the external agency can be a crucial marketing partner, many client-side marketers look internally to solve their creative and advertising needs.

    An in-house agency can consist of full creative and/or media abilities, account and project management, or focus on a particular tactic, such as social media, programmatic, or video production. This committee provides a forum for education, networking, and discussion that helps elevate individuals in their respective organizations, as well as advance the role in-house agencies play throughout the industry. You can join this committee and others here.


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  • How to Optimize Your In-House Agency (Half Day).
    In this workshop, you will learn about three perspectives of common in-house agency operational issues, and you will learn about some of the warning signs of creative inefficiency and bad process. As a result, you will learn how to use best practices and solutions to drive better creative output and employee satisfaction. Also, you will discuss how to define the goals and capabilities of an in-house agency to capitalize on marketer relationships and bring out the best in your creative team.

  • The Strategic In-House Agency (Half Day).
    In this workshop we will explore the fundamental differences between account management and project management and why these roles are critical to successfully building trust and respect with internal partners. You will understand the specific functions of the account manager versus the project manager, and you will gain insight into business challenges that may be solved by developing the account management function within your in-house agency.

    Attendees can expect to walk away from this session with a clear understanding of what it takes to be a successful account manager, how this differs from role of project management in ensuring the successful execution of the project, and the importance of account management in managing stakeholder relationships and driving growth for your brand. Offered virtually as well here and here.

  • Build a Better Relationship with Your IHA (Half Day).
    In this workshop, marketers will discover the value an in-house agency brings to your marketing team and how to get the most out of effective collaboration with your IHA. We will discuss how to understand the roles and capabilities of an in-house agency to build strategic partnerships with marketers. As a result, you will be prepared to launch best practices for cross-functional collaboration, and learn solutions to drive better creative output, and optimize campaign production. Also available virtually here and here.

The Marketing Knowledge Center actively connects ANA members to the resources they need to be successful. You can visit the ANA website to engage with the MKC in three ways.

      • You can visit the ANA website to engage with the MKC in three ways. Explore content to access best practices, case studies, and marketing tools. Our proprietary content includes Event Recaps, which share actionable insights from conference and committee presentations.
      • Connect with our Ask the Expert team in real time for customized answers to your specific marketing challenges.
      • Stay on top of trends with Marketing Futures Pulse issues, which explore how new technologies and innovations will affect marketers and consumers alike. 

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"How to Build an In-House Agency." ANA, 2022.