As More Brands Take Programmatic In-House, WPP’s Martin Sorrell Says Issue Is Overblown

As More Brands Take Programmatic In-House, WPP’s Martin Sorrell Says Issue Is Overblown

The boss of one of the world’s largest communications networks WPP has downplayed the idea brands taking programmatic trading in-house is a worrying trend for media agencies.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

Speaking during a call about the company’s fourth-quarter results, Sir Martin Sorrell said companies bringing it in-house have found issues, reports the Wall Street Journal.

“The sense we’re getting is clients are finding it very difficult to do even after a short period of time,” he said.

A number of big brands have taken their programmatic capabilities in house over the past years, such as Commonwealth Bank. Volkswagen general manager of marketing, Ben Wilks, last week also told a conference it is something he could see the company doing at some point in the future, and is looking to upskill its employees.

Still, Joanna O’Connell, CMO of ad tech company MediaMath in the States, recently expressed her surprise so many were doing it.

“I have been surprised at the commitment some very big marketers have made to true in-house,” she told B&T during her visit to Sydney.

“I don’t think I expected some of the companies that are saying they’re bringing everything in-house to necessarily do that. I didn’t anticipate they would see the necessary time, energy and financial commitment worth it.”

However, she stressed there’s a wide spectrum of what constitutes ‘in-house’, particularly when marketers were first looking to do it themselves. There’s “ten different shades of grey”.

One end sees the really DIY (do-it-yourself) marketers who just get it, the other end the marketers who need all the help they can get. Then there’s the ones in the middle who range from having the capability and rely on an agency for either advice, management, and those who want to take some control but let a lot of it come from their partners.

“There are lots of flavours of in-house,” continued O’Connell.

“That said, it will be interesting to see how it evolves. Because some marketers may just make the decision, ‘I think I can do it best myself, I’m going to make the commitment to hire the people necessary’.”

She doesn’t think it will be the majority of brands. It could be a growing trend, but she says the adage of “death of the agency” is greatly over exaggerated – a similar view of WPP’s Sorrell.

She did say it seemed to be more prevalent over here than in America.

And yet, a study from industry body ANA (Association of National Advertisers) in the States found some 31 per cent of marketers were bringing their trading in-house, in some sort of way.

This was despite constant worries about ad fraud and transparency.