The Brand-Agency Relationship

The Brand-Agency Relationship

Streamlining with In-House Teams and Flexible Engagement Models

Executive Summary

Brands can’t accomplish everything alone; external agency partners are essential to a brands’ capabilities and capacity. But with aggressive growth goals and complex tech and data requirements, many brands are streamlining agency relationships.

What do brands want from their agencies?

Client-side marketers want their agencies to provide better design and creative work, different pricing models and nimbler ways of working, according to SoDA. Stronger leadership, technology capabilities and data skills also fall on that list.

What are the biggest challenges for agencies?

Half of digital agencies say clients moving agency services in-house is a top challenge, according to Marketing Land. Competition for talent, budget cuts by clients and keeping up with new technology trends are also key obstacles.

How are consultancies and agencies competing?

With an expertise in operations and technology, many management consulting firms work with brands to help streamline—or butt in on—their agency relationships. This engagement often starts with an assessment of the marketing value chain and then includes an audit of gaps and overlaps. Consultancies make recommendations for what brands can handle internally and what can be outsourced to an agency.

What is in-housing?

We define in-housing as taking a once outsourced capability and having it managed by an internal agency, team, group or even a single employee. The aim is for this expertise to become a core internal competency, critical to the business. The requirement is to have the capability and capacity to deliver brand-side, but this doesn’t necessarily mean displacing the agency. In-housing requires cooperation and buy-in from all stakeholders—internal and external.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report will cover how brands rely on external agencies and how that relationship has evolved in recent years. It will also explore which services brands manage internally, with 12 brand case studies.

KEY STAT: A January 2019 survey from Forrester Consulting asked marketing decision-makers to describe their agency relationship as it applies to digital and creative media. There was no majority response, showing just how varied brand-agency engagements are.

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Jillian Ryan


Ross Benes
Blake Droesch
Junior Analyst
Lauren Fisher
Principal Analyst
Nicole Perrin
Principal Analyst
Tracy Tang
Senior Researcher