Digital Advertising Blog

Ad Agency vs. Going In House (2 of 3)

by Terry MacCauley - Posted 5 months ago

Continuing on with this advancing debate of going with an advertising agency or with an in-house person or team.

I remind you that as the CEO of an advertising agency I certainly have a bit of a bias. However, I have worked “in-house” within two dealerships while in the employ as a general manager and general sales manager. In addition, we have hired agencies throughout my career as well, so my insight into this raging debate is fully enlightened after having sat on both sides of the desk.

With a liberal arts education in a Benedictine monastery with a strong background in philosophy I am well suited for both sides of an argument for the sake of seeking truth. With this in mind, my best attempt will be put forth at approaching both sides of the argument with a clear mind and heart.

2. Needed Range of Various Skills and Talents

After interviewing uncountable candidates for many digital marketing positions, I have verified that they all have their own specific skill set. Not all marketing degrees are equal or the same. Like doctors, lawyers or accountants they all are valuable, but they too have a specific skill set and specialty. Good luck hiring the traffic guy when needing representation with the IRS. If you trust the one-stop professional, you are a better person than I. Do you use a family focused realtor when shopping for commercial property? Perplexing.

Like any profession, in digital marketing some individuals are perfect for Social Media, some better suited for paid search, others claim to be content marketing gods, and some are experts at driving conversion rates with optimization. Or have you found the digital minded genius who is also an expert level graphic designer (not a stock photography expert)? I doubt it. Nonetheless, drawing from every ounce of my experience while working in or with all advertising mediums, I can assure you that digital marketing is ABSOLUTELY too complex for a single person to be an “expert” at everything. Unless you have found Artificial Intelligence to work in house. Alexa has a ways to go still.

Here let me give you a few examples of hundreds of examples I can think of quickly. Let us say you hired the “paid search specialist” only to learn that your competing dealers are kicking your ass with better content marketing. Or you hire a social media expert that understands posting on Facebook but nothing about algorithms and zero experience with real A, B testing to compare results against. Digital and Social Marketing is literally changing daily. Facebook made twelve major changes in 2016, google made a minimum of 14 major algorithm updates last year, and on and on.

If you indeed have hired that diamond, then your company must have unlimited financial backing with tons of cash to toss around.

Broaden Your Horizons
Trust me, finding the right team of creative marketing assets is no easy task. Accomplishing that for an in-house dealership sounds like a bigger task. When we invest in any medium vertical for the first time or one that is in it’s infancy we are taking many financial risks, no doubt. Having an optimal marketing strategy is a constant, moving grind.

I am constantly cautioning anyone and everyone that will listen, even my own team, that getting stuck in one magic marketing channel is dangerous business. We must constantly be looking for ways to grow our clients’ reach while mixing brand and call-to-action with all demographics that our dealerships want driving their vehicles.

You and I should never get stuck with someone that can only do one thing well or is only interested in one medium. We must strive to become interested and deeply possessed with all channels of our marketing strategies.

No matter how talented a graphic designer or other specialist, having any level of limited number of marketing skills keeps us from getting the results we are always seeking, MORE SOLD UNITS.

A competent advertising agency (traditional and digital) is where this challenge is best resolved. Your dealership most likely cannot afford to pay salaries for a graphic designer, a PPC expert, a copy writer, a video editor, web designer and optimizer, and more. You do get it, don’t you? An advertising agency must hire this diverse set of skills and, therefore, they typically can beat any dealership playing with a one-person-band. In addition, at an advertising agency these specialized professionals are working on multiple dealership accounts which gives them more in-depth experience and diversity that is absolutely applied to all possible accounts and scenarios.

The Value of Diversification
As you can see just for entry-level (if you are okay with entry-level experience) diversity can be expensive indeed.

Average Entry Level Salaries based on PayScale*
Digital Marketing Manager: $55,000
Copywriter: $44,000
Social Media Manager: $45,200
Video Editor: $40,000
Web Designer: $45,000
Graphic Designer: $40,000

If you cannot afford to hire this kind of diversity in-house for a competent team, then you actually can afford to hire an advertising agency. I realize most dealerships do not need full-time AdWords experts, top-shelf designers, and well versed Facebook managers, but your store would definitely benefit from this level of expertise when going against other dealerships that receive it.

Ad Agency vs. In-House
I agree this debate is valid. With these new considerations, what is best for your dealership? Only your dealer principal’s pocketbook can answer this question. Keep in mind that for every dollar spent on salaries for the needed employee that is real money that could be used and spent on actual advertising. That is a big number to overcome, when you consider it that way.

Large multi-line dealerships may be able to make this huge investment to go in-house. However, if the obvious risks (salary, insurance, taxes, unemployment and more) and a lack of funds to accomplish your important marketing goals is real, then using an agency will deliver the diversity and professionalism you should demand.