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Avoid These Costly Mistakes When In-housing Paid Media

October 10, 2023

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Bamboo has managed more than $1 Billion in paid media spend for clients like Adobe, DoorDash, Dropbox, and Uber.

What do these partnerships all have in common? Each of these brands eventually transitioned from our agency support to managing at least some of their paid media work using in-house teams.

In an ideal transition from agency support to leveraging an in-house team, companies can accrue valuable advantages like cost savings, faster day-to-day control over their ad accounts, and better cross-functional alignment.

Unfortunately, the majority of in-housing transitions do not go according to plan.

In this post, we’ll outline the most common mistakes made when in-housing paid media so you can avoid them.

1. Underinvesting in talent quality

Many marketing leaders pitch their in-housing plan to executives as a way to drive the same results with lower costs.

While it’s true that in-housing is often lower cost than leveraging agencies, marketing leaders regularly underestimate the seniority requirements (and associated costs) required to perform on par with their agencies.

Agencies staff junior, mid-, and senior-level talent to client accounts. It’s unlikely that an in-house team made up of only of junior staffers will be able to maintain the same results over time.

Talent quality underinvestment is the most common mistake we see in failed in-housing attempts.

2. Underinvesting in talent quantity

In the same way marketing leaders tend to underestimate the talent quality required to keep driving results, they also underestimate the sheer work quantity involved as well.

Agencies have a lot of flaws, but work output per employee is rarely one of them.

Most agency employees are singularly focused on hitting client goals. It’s very common for agencies employees to work longer hours and spend more time in the ad accounts than in-house team members.

In-house team members will spend 10% of their time or more in meetings, participating in company chatter, taking trainings, taking PTO, etc…

Agencies have redundancies in place for when their team members are away from client ad accounts. In-house teams need to have those redundancies in place as well.

3. Lack of skill diversity and/or cross-functional support

Driving paid media results is not limited to just the media buying skillsets.

There are many moments that require additional support from data analysis, design, and so much more…

Agencies can fractionalize this talent across many clients. In-house teams often have data analysts and designers, but rarely is paid media their #1 priority. Usually they are focused in other orgs such as product and engineering.

This means marketing support ends up lower priority and the paid media results suffer as a consequence. Even when this type of support is properly prioritized by the company, the costs involved are generally not priced into the cost/benefit equation of in-housing during the initial planning stages.

4. Insular thinking

Agencies have visibility into all of their client ad accounts. They have close relationships with ad network partners. They regularly attend conferences, networking events, and are very plugged into the advertising community.

Internal teams often lack this breadth of visibility, which can lead to insular thinking and a narrow perspective on paid media strategies. This results in many in-house teams executing using years-old best practices.

Some of the best opportunities to improve paid media results come from the speed of adopting new trends, best practices, tools, etc…

Make sure your in-housing plan includes time and money for regularly seeking external perspectives at industry events, within online communities (like Bamboo’s Efficient Growth Community), and for seeking out partnerships with outside experts in the field.

5. All-or-nothing thinking

Many of the most successful in-housing plans we’ve been a part of were executed on in a measured and phased way. Some in-housed one channel at a time, some in-housed one line of business at a time, and others maintained agency support for creative, data analysis, and/or external thought leadership workflows.

In a recent Ad Age survey of more than 70 top multi-national advertisers, 27% said they have brought at least some of their paid media in-house. Only 16% of them managed more than 25% of their paid media in-house.

There is no one-size-fits-all and in-housing isn’t an all-or-nothing choice. Don’t introduce unnecessary risk by trying to in-house the entire paid media program at once if it’s unmanageably large.


So many brands are planning to in-house or have already made failed attempts at doing so that Bamboo now offers Managed In-Housing Support to brands who are considering in-housing all or part of their paid media within the next 12 months.

If you are considering in-housing within the next year or if you want expert advice on your current resourcing, email us at hello@growwithbamboo.com.

Daniel Pearson

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