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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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. The Shifting Dynamics of Brands and Agencies
  3. Brands Taking More Ownership
  4. Flexible Engagement Models: In-Housing, Outsourcing and Everything in Between
  1. An Inside Look at 12 Brands on an In-House Journey
  2. Challenges Ahead
  3. Key Takeaways
  4. eMarketer Interviews
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Interviewed for This Report

Sarah Armstrong
McKinsey & Company
Interviewed April 30, 2019
Michele Barlow
Bank of America
Senior Vice President, Enterprise Marketing Executive
Interviewed May 9, 2019
Mike Boyd
Senior Vice President, Enterprise Brand Marketing
Interviewed May 2, 2019
Maureen Boyle
Trunk Club
Senior Director, Creative Services and Events
Interviewed April 29, 2019
Scott Brazina
Interviewed April 29, 2019
Jason Burby
Wunderman Thompson, North America
Chief Client Officer
Interviewed May 2, 2019
Jenny Chan
Senior Director, Consumer Marketing and Acquisition
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Warren Chase
Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, 140
Interviewed May 13, 2019
Jess Clifton
US Head of Digital
Interviewed April 23, 2019
Christine Cutten
Deloitte Consulting
Principal, Marketing Transformation Practice Leader
Interviewed April 29, 2019
Emily Del Greco
President, Americas
Interviewed April 29, 2019
Bill Duggan
Association of National Advertisers (ANA)
Group Executive Vice President
Interviewed April 22, 2019
Emily Foster
In-House Agency Forum (IHAF)
Interviewed May 2, 2019
Scott Hagedorn
Omnicom Media Group
Interviewed May 2, 2019
Dirk Herbert
Dentsu Aegis Network US
Chief Strategy Officer
Interviewed May 2, 2019
Stefanie Jay
Walmart Media Group
Vice President and General Manager
Interviewed May 10, 2019
Karyn Johnson
Publicis Media Exchange
President, Programmatic Investment
Interviewed April 29, 2019
Mike Lamb
McKinsey & Company
McKinsey & Company
Interviewed April 30, 2019
Jessica Lustgarten Courtemanche
Vice President, Director, Data and Analysis
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Scott Mager
Deloitte Consulting
Principal, Digital Advertising and Marketing Leader
Interviewed May 13, 2019
Tim Malone
New Balance
Director, Global Marketing
Interviewed April 30, 2019
Kerri Martin
The Clorox Company
Chief Electrofier, Electro Creative Workshop
Interviewed May 3, 2019
Leland Maschmeyer
Chief Creative Officer
Interviewed May 2, 2019
Michael McLaren
Executive Vice President
Interviewed April 17, 2019
Michelle Mirshak
Spark Foundry
Senior Vice President, Data Architecture and Governance
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Gaja Nagarajan
Maxim Integrated
Managing Director, IT
Interviewed May 8, 2019
Joshua Palau
Bayer Consumer Health
Vice President, Media Strategy and Platforms
Interviewed May 6, 2019
Bob Ray
Global CEO
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Jason Rose
SAP Customer Experience
Interviewed May 9, 2019
Krish Sailam
Senior Vice President, Global Programmatic Solutions
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Steve Simpson
Publicis Groupe
Senior Global Executive
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Niharika Shah
Prudential Financial
Chief Brand Officer
Interviewed May 9, 2019
Brooke Skinner Ricketts
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Mark Sneider
Interviewed April 24, 2019
Elizabeth Spaulding
Bain & Company
Partner and Co-Leader, Global Digital Practice
Interviewed April 26, 2019
Scott Symonds
Managing Partner
Interviewed February 26, 2019
Scott Tieman
Accenture Interactive
Managing Director and Personalization Lead
Interviewed May 1, 2019
Beth Wade
Global CMO
Interviewed May 8, 2019
Amy Winger
Chief Strategy Officer
Interviewed May 8, 2019
Stephanie Swingle
Interviewed May 3, 2019

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Jillian Ryan


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

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