How To Build Your In-House Agency for True Success

By Eve Asbury


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?

The CMO's Vision

It is essential that the CMO's vision and top priorities are understood by everyone in marketing and that includes the in-house agency. This usually starts with the annual process of goal setting; as the company's goals change, the CMO pivots and adjusts the marketing strategy to deliver on the company's new goals.

Knowing this happens every year, it's always a surprise to me that some in-house agencies are left out of these marketing conversations. This is a missed opportunity. By including the in-house in these meetings, the in-house team has all of the information needed to help marketing deliver solid solutions.

Take away
The in-house agency that's connected to the CMO is more successful and delivers better results. The in-house agency needs to have a seat at the marketing table. This isn't at the C-suite level, but a senior leader that's included in conversations with the CMO.


The quality of the inputs is another critical piece of the puzzle. The clearer the brief, the better the work. Clarity and the ability for the in-house team to ask questions are keys to achieving better results. Internal clients need to understand that if the brief is incomplete, nonexistent, or unclear, the work will suffer.

Take Away
In order to be successful, the in-house team needs to receive clear direction.

Process and Project Management System

It should go without saying that a process and technology are needed and with most companies working in a hybrid model; it's become even more essential. Developing a process is time consuming and implementing a project management system does not negate the need to have a process.

Take Away
Both process and technology are needed. Technology won't solve human error or team members not understanding their roles, but a process without a technological solution will result in longer timelines.

Team Investment

The in-house agency team is a combination of talent, chemistry, and the right mix of makers to managers. As already mentioned, finding the right talent is easy today, but ensuring you are prepared for the type of work you'll be doing tomorrow is not.

Take Away
In-house leadership needs to know the direction of the company and marketing trends to ensure the in-house team has the capability to work on high value content today and tomorrow.

Talent Mix

The mix of talent in the in-house agency is something that is frequently overlooked. Most discussions around resources are about specific disciplines.

Take Away
The bottom line: 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.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Eve Asbury is the inhouse specialist and co-lead of the creative team at Boathouse. Before coming to Boathouse, she was VP Creative Center of Excellence—Gartner's in-house creative and production agency.