Many in-house agencies are failing to realise their potential, held back by the constraints of internal structures and hierarchies as well as sometimes inadequate resourcing, according to new research.

A study from the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF), based on responses from more than 360 companies, found an “identity crisis” among in-house agencies, whose autonomy in executing projects is not matched by that in developing marketing communications and creative strategy.

Corporate marketers tend to take more interest in such matters when they’re being done in-house: 87% said they have “significant to moderate influence” over work produced internally, Campaign reported.

At the same time, however, 42% of corporate marketers confessed they were unaware of what their in-house agency’s mission, purpose and/or objective is.

The IHAs themselves are more certain, with 78% clear on these issues – and two thirds of them have undergone some sort of reorganisation during the past two years.

IHAs also struggle with resourcing, with 52% of respondents reporting that their in-house agency is not adequately funded. Further, most (82%) end up having to look externally for people and skills IHAs don’t themselves possess.

As MediaPost noted: “Brands want to control their creative output, yet don’t realize the full costs involved in doing so”.

These figures indicate how difficult it has been to align the interests of the two different sides of the marketing equation and to make the most effective use of in-housing.

“While IHAs may be enabled by institutional knowledge, proximity and creative prowess, they are simultaneously stymied by operating practices and decision-making hierarchies that limit their ability to contribute more fully,” said Marta Stiglin, in-house expert and organizational consultant.

“There’s opportunity to capitalise on the advantages of having a skilled ‘agency’ embedded within a corporation,” she added. “The reality is that doing so could mean dismantling the traditional paradigm of clients being in command and control.”

Sourced from Campaign, MediaPost; additional content by WARC staff