In-House Media Best Practices

August 5, 2020


What are the basics in bringing media in-house? Any tips or processes that work best? What are the savings?

Taking media 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.

As one Adweek article put it, "Sometimes it is better to take back control, while other times it's better to leave it in the hands of experts. The resources below have been selected to give you some guideposts for in-housing media, including basics, tips, and best practices, as well as costs, savings, and tradeoffs.

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

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Best Practices

  • Taking Media In-House Is not a Case of One Size Fits All. Adweek, December 27, 2019.
    This article takes a critical look at the current state of in-housing, what's on the horizon, and succinctly summarizes the various upsides and downsides to in-housing. It provides copious examples of brands that have in-housed media – both success stories and cases in which brands ultimately abandoned their in-house media efforts. It observes that while many brands have been eager to trumpet the success of their in-housing operations, for every account of double-digit savings with such efforts, there are as many anecdotes of U-turns where brands shutter their in-house operations.

  • The In-Housing Roadmap to Reality. WARC, January 14, 2020.
    This article sums up (and links to) a variety of reports on in-housing media. The author James Coulson describes various approaches/models to in-housing, making the point that not all models will work for all situations. He writes, "For many businesses, a full in-house approach will not stack up in a cost-benefit analysis." And he notes, "Broadly speaking...we are starting to see four main quadrants into which companies with different ambitions for in-housing and ultimately very different business objectives and corporate stories and cultures, will generally fit." He puts four general in-housing models that most businesses fall into a matrix:
    • Traditional: Agency Managed – Low Client Control
    • Control and transparency: Agency Managed – High Client Control
    • Ad network: In-house – Low Client Control
    • Hands-on-Keyboards: In-house – High Client Control
  • The 9 Levels of In-Housing: Where Do You Fall? Ad Age, November 8, 2019.
    Do you want to own all of your data assets? Do you want to monitor all contracts? Do you think you can just buy media better than the outside agency can? This article lists these considerations and provides insight into nine levels of in-housing to help you determine the appropriate amount of responsibility and involvement needed for in-house tasks.

  • Bringing Media Buying In-House: Cost Saver or Money Drain? WARC, February 4, 2019
    This article offers five key considerations:
    • Being clear about the goals of owning the programmatic activity.
    • Whether you will be owning and customizing ad decisioning and optimization logic.
    • A realistic, clear-eyed assessment about whether you've got the necessary time and money for this initiative.
    • Whether you have access to the right talent.
    • Whether your technology solves business problems that your current programmatic agency doesn't.

Brand Examples

  • Building a Case for In-House Media at Electrolux. ANA, October 16, 2019.
    Details on the process used by home appliance brand Electrolux when bringing digital media in-house. Covers its work with consultancy BCG and agency MightyHive, questions asked along the way, and training issues. The audience Q&A covers team structure and a detailed executional roadmap is featured on page 15-17 of the accompanying deck.

  • Electronic Arts: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of In-Housing. ANA, March 14, 2019.
    Electronic Arts took a two-year journey to fully build its in-house media-buying function. The company exposed the truth about in-housing (spoiler: It's not what you think), which goes way beyond how you buy your media and whether you use agencies. The upsides and downsides to using an outside agency for at least some media buys are explored: Using outside agencies makes it easier to find specialized talent and flexibility. A shared model allows for co-location models and a "try before you buy" approach – but does require oversight staff and high investment without ownership.


  • Data Sources for Media: A Buyer's Guide. ANA, May 11, 2020
    A tremendous amount of money is spent on data for media buying decisions, specifically third-party audience data. This ANA guide provides tips for vetting data sources and includes:
    • A media data-buyers checklist
    • Questions to asks data vendors
    • Contractual considerations
  • Build vs. Buy Decision Matrix. ANA | Demand Metric, 2018.
    Use this matrix to compare your options for in-house builds vs. outsourced solutions. Download tool here.
  • In-House Agency vs. External Agency Model. ANA | Demand Metric, 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.

Other Resources:

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"In-House Media Best Practices." ANA, August 2020.