The Rise of the Internal Marketing Agency

It can’t be denied that digital marketing is an extremely diverse and broad field these days, with specialist agencies popping up all the time to service this or that marketing niche. Maybe it’s just SEO or social media they do, or perhaps they will simply offer services within a particular market sector such as travel. Then of course you have the big players who can cover just about every conceivable sector of not only digital marketing but also the traditional side of things too.

Then you have the flip side with brands and other companies looking to set up small teams in house to look after certain areas of their own marketing. More often than not, this may cover only a handful of divisions such as search or more general marketing, where they may even spend a lot of their time managing the external agencies they contract their work out to. Quite often these teams are small or disjointed and it’s amazing the amount of times I speak to people at big companies where it’s obvious one hand does not know what the other is doing.

Now not all firms operate this way of course. There are plenty I could mention that have large internal marketing teams. But similarly these are still often separate bodies where there may in fact be several directors all looking after very similar practices in house with similar goals.

Recently though I have seen a new phenomenon forming within the market. Big brands that are looking to form what in essence are their very own internal marketing agencies. Not simply a handful of departments that all loosely work together, but truly uniformed divisions that are set up to run just like the agency models but purely operating for the client.

Some of these are actually quite large operations with a couple I personally deal with that have in excess of 150 dedicated in-house professionals working across all marketing functions. They have departments such as SEO, social, analytics, PR, and every other functions of marketing with all content being produced in house by extensive teams of creatives too.

Not only are these companies finding this model to be more cost effective, but also the ROI is very good as they now have large full-time teams working across all disciplines of digital and traditional marketing with dedicated project managers ensuring that the teams are liaising together and working toward the same goals.

One of the interesting upsides to this new move to form large internal agencies is the fact that these brands are actively looking to hire people from the agency world because they want to replicate how they operate. This ranges for directors of departments through account managers and executives to all of the different creative disciplines such as UX and video too.

The fact that some of the brands are so huge with massive worldwide presences enables them to place people on different internal projects reporting to a range of different stakeholders within the business. This in essence means they do actually operate and function nearly identically to an external agency in how they interact with the business.

I think you will start to see this model rolled out across more end clients over the next couple of years where they have the spending power and pockets that are deep enough to accommodate this form of business practice. It’s very interesting to see some of these internal agencies that are actually larger in staff numbers than their external counterparts and I have seen quite a few leading industry figures move into these companies to help them build further.

So keep an eye on some of those huge brands out there. Especially those within the financial sector that are moving heavily into marketing and have the capability to throw a lot of cash into those departments.

Related reading

Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.