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In-house Agency Penetration in Marketing Services

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by Keerthana Dulipkumar , Senior Research Analyst, Marketing Agencies
1 January 2017


An “in-house agency” is defined as a department, group, or person with responsibilities that typically are performed by an external advertising or other marketing communication agency.

Historically, when the economy grows, marketing budgets and in-house agencies grow right along with it. However, the scale of inhouse agency penetration described in this article does not purely depend on an economics-driven growth. In-house agencies have become more powerful. They conduct activities such as content marketing, creative strategy, data and marketing analytics, media strategy, and programmatic and social media. This increase in capabilities accompanies substantial increases in levels of sophistication and quality due to a distinct shift in creative leadership.

Further, in-house agencies will continue to thrive because of how complicated it has become to create modern marketing programs. Managing the infinite landscape of media requires dedicated resources with in-depth company knowledge as a result of new challenges in data security and the need for transparency in media buying. This article provides a brief answer to the following questions:

  • Why do brands have in-house agencies?
  • What is the state of in-house agency penetration compared to the previous years?
  • When did brands start establishing their in-house agencies?
  • What are the strategic services that are handled in-house?

The Background

In-house agency penetration and workloads are increasing. The in-house agencies of almost half the Fortune 500s across all categories were established within the past five years, contributing to the recent rise in overall penetration of in-house agencies. These inhouse agencies provide a range of services including strategy, creative traditional media, creative digital media, and media planning/buying. The biggest challenges for in-house agencies are related to managing growth. Specifically, the top two challenges are managing workflow (increased projects) and efficient scaling/managing resources

In-house Agency Penetration

In 2018, 78 percent of companies had an in-house agency. Of the 22 percent of companies that did not have an inhouse agency:

  • 8 percent were considering opening one,
  • 2 percent used to have an in-house agency but have since discontinued,
  • 12 percent never had one and are not considering opening one.
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