While in-housing seems to be a topic du jour, the global leader of Publicis Media and Unilever's APAC-based head of media said at Campaign360 this afternoon that focus on that term diverts attention from the real issue facing advertisers.
That issue, in the words of Unilever's David Porter: "Getting the collaboration we need."
"The whole in-housing argument is perhaps front of mind for many agencies, but it's not a big concern for us," he said. Instead, Unilever and other clients simply need to gather together the right talent and expertise to attack their issues.
While Unilever tends to co-locate agency talent in its facilities, the point is having the right minds around a table solving problems, he said. "In that room, I'm not worried about which agency they work for, as long as they play nice," he said, adding that he has seen people from different agency groups working together better than peers from within the same group.
But such issues are not the point. Most companies built to survive the last 10 years are not well suited to survive the next 10, Porter said. Brands need to navigate challenges that go far beyond getting a handle on programmatic or producing social-media content, and they need significant collaboration with a wide range of partners to get it.
Steve King, the global CEO of Publicis Media, agreed with Porter that in-housing is not much of a concern for his company, but for different reasons. He pointed to talent acquisition as a major reason most companies would struggle to bring significant parts of the agency purview in-house. Take digital advertising, for example, where King said it's taken agencies 10 years to build solid systems that offer verification and transparency across markets. Finding the talent to deliver on that and other client needs is not trivial.
Clients have called on agencies to simplify things for them, and holding groups such as Publicis have heeded the call, bringing disciplines together, King argued, admitting that "we had so many different brands and silos and disciplines". He added that these days the network is not going to clients with "a plethora of business cards".
Session moderator Stephan Leorke, CEO of the World Federation of Advertisers, suggested that the jury is still out on how well agency groups are doing on that kind of integration. In a recent WFA study, he shared, the single-agency model still stands as the preferred model for clients. Yet at the same time, 68% of clients expect to do more in-housing, and a large number expect to work with a greater number of agencies going forward.