• Zesta

Why brands need to take back control of their marketing

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

One of the main attributes of an adult person is to be able to decide by themselves what is important to be learned rather than relying on somebody else’s opinion. For decades, brands relied on external businesses to set strategies, execute them and learn new skills. Now is the time for brands to enter their marketing adulthood, where they take back control of their marketing and brand.


Brands have traditionally outsourced in order to get more skills, efficiency, pace and productivity. This has to change. Since the end of the 19th century and more globally by the end of WW2, companies have largely outsourced advertising and creative work to agencies in successful waves:

  • Holding companies would buy media for all of their clients and therefore negotiate a discount

  • Agencies were widely regarded as more capable, mostly because they’d be more able to attract talents thanks to a plethora of projects they’d be working on

  • When digital advertising emerged, agencies were more equipped to respond and agencies then split their teams into off and online. Digital as a new channel brought more complexity and increased the pace of innovation. As a result brands had to outsource to cope with it.

  • Adtech and martech added a level of complexity with data being spread in many databases. More recently, Walled Gardens, Intelligence Tracking Prevention (ITP) and new laws on data (GDPR/ CCPA) made it very difficult for these databases to communicate with each other and brands turned to agencies and consultancies to make sense of it.

However, we’ve seen a change of paradigm in the past years. On the one hand, online marketing turned from a single channel delivery service to an overarching strategic advisory discipline, driving long term branding, marketing and sales decisions. On the other hand, data developed from being a nerdy discipline to the very foundation to any marketing, sales and brand strategy.


During this journey and evolution, most brands have lost control of their marketing, as they have left this to external partners. It creates challenges that obstruct their pace of growth:

  • Lack of media transparency or brand safety

  • Lack of data or tech ownership

  • Lack of measurement that fits their business model

  • Slow tech activation

  • No way of checking the quality of work, benchmarking

  • No board and top level involvement (remember that it is now a strategic discipline, so that is really a disaster)

  • Brand equity - no coordination between short term performance marketing and long term brand equity building

As a result, acting focused on this adulthood migration should be on top of every brands’ agenda, and here are seven concrete actions to take:


7 recommendations giving you back the control of marketing:

  • Invest in creating an agile “digital first” culture in the organisation with a clear end business goal that the entire organisation can look up to

  • Make sure that the tech stack can adapt to any change in business (no Big Bang but a gradual change)

  • Make sure that change comes from the top (ideally the CEO and/or the Board), involves all tiers of management and has processes to keep it alive when challenges come in the way (resilience). More info in our previous article on leadership.

  • In-housing (benchmarking existing performance partners performance towards the market) media buying when it makes sense. The main questions you need to ask yourself are how much budget you’re spending, how many agencies you’re working with, the business relationship you have with them and eventually their added value. In Europe, 74% of brands are saying they had moved programmatic in house according to a IAB and Accenture Interactive 2020 survey

  • Taking control of your media spend via in-housing can in turn help you purchase media in a more transparent and efficient way thanks to:

- Supply Path Optimisation (SPO): tactics that the buy-side can use to optimise supply paths and therefore both have a higher media transparency but also spend less on the “middle man” and more on tech and publishers. Pubmatic has a really good whitepaper explaining just that.

- Brand safety: You can set your own KPIs and use the technology that fits you best to track your media consumption and make sure it matches your brand purpose and values.

  • Have a clearer understanding of your customers’ paths with a solid attribution model that takes into account walled gardens, legal and technical requirements (MTA, MMM...) and an investment in data science and AI. More info in our previous article on D2C.

  • Step back and assess your strategic goals versus your marketing actions, including ownership of data, UX (vs values, environment, culture - walking the talk) and long term brand equity.

Such a transformation is massive, multidimensional and requires you to follow the right steps to deliver it successfully. It is often the case that brands would need assistance for part or all of these challenges.


But the investment is essential, and is made into securing marketing and branding adulthood of your products and services, and secure ownership of your data, customers, marketing and brand safety in the future.

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