Nearly two thirds (62%) of advertisers are shifting towards stronger relationships with fewer suppliers as the move towards on-site and in-house solutions gains momentum, according to the first-ever UK study on advertisers’ use of in-house and on-site agencies.

The research, conducted by ISBA in association with on-site specialist OLIVER and through independent market research consultancy Future Thinking, found that just under half of brands now have, or are considering establishing, an on-site (45%) or in-house (44%) capability. This shift in the UK is being driven mostly by the need for closer collaboration, deep sector knowledge, data confidentiality and transparency, as content needs increase across all channels.

The findings show external agencies are losing ground with advertisers for lack of speed, with over two thirds (68%) of marketers expressing frustration with the time it takes external agencies to make decisions or turn around briefs. This dropped to 8% for on-site and 20% for in-house agencies.

Marketers were the key decision makers in hiring agencies, with procurement having a background role (43% said that procurement was either not very or not at all influential).

Among the key advantages respondents identified for selecting an on-site agency were the desire for speed and agility (86%), improved cost efficiencies (68%), collaboration (64%), and operational control (54%) that comes with working in the same building, as well as the institutional knowledge (21%) and strategic capabilities (21%) that agencies offer.

Meanwhile, for in-house, respondents cited improved brand expertise (61%), collaboration (52%), operational control (55%), and creative expertise (33%) as the main advantages.

As one respondent noted: “The traditional agency model is too slow and too far removed. We need the agency to be part of the team and to drive efficiencies to get from brief to publish far faster.”

Despite the trend towards in-house or on-site however, marketers are still using these capabilities mainly in a tactical function. 54% use on-site agencies on a project-by-project basis.

Debbie Morrison, director of consultancy and best practice at ISBA said: “Agility is increasingly a big issue for clients, especially in relation to digital activities, so it is no surprise that we are seeing a rise in these types of activities being handled in-house and particularly with on-site agencies. Adapting to the new demands that marketers have should be a key priority for agencies as they encounter an increasingly competitive market.”

Sharon Whale, CEO, OLIVER UK, commented: “Amid increasing demand for closer collaboration, faster turnaround and more effective integration of the agency into a company’s processes, it’s clear now that the traditional external agency model cannot meet all of these needs. Having a unique model of working on-site, which enables you to get to know the ins and outs of the company, is becoming ever more valuable as marketers expectations continue to grow.”

Emily Abbott, director of Communicate at Future Thinking, added: “The shift to in-house and on-site agencies that has been underway in the US is now finally being echoed this side of the pond, with huge implications for agencies and marketers alike. This study, the first of its kind in the UK, gives us a unique glimpse into the changing nature of the industry and how the needs of marketers have evolved in recent years.”

The study canvassed ISBA members over a two-month period between December 2016 and February 2017. It included responses from 85 senior ISBA members. In terms of UK advertising expenditure, half of the companies that responded spend more than £30million annually and over a third of respondents spend more than £50million. The report follows a series of ANA studies in the United States, where 58% of advertisers were shifting towards in-house or on-site in 2013 (according to evidence from the ANA).

About ISBA – the Voice of British Advertisers

ISBA ( / @isbasays) is the only UK body focused solely on the interests of advertisers. With an excess of £10bn spend on marketing communications, ISBA protects its members’ freedom to advertise responsibly and maximise their effectiveness in deploying their marketing spend.

ISBA is the advertiser member of the UK Advertising Association, and advertiser’s representative on CAP, BCAP and all the Joint Industry Committees including JICWEBS. We are also active members of the International Chamber of Commerce Advertising and Marketing Commission, and members of the World Federation of Advertisers based in Brussels.


Lots of agencies say they’re different; OLIVER genuinely is.

OLIVER builds in-house agencies to deliver more effective work at the speed required to drive their clients’ businesses forward. We believe agencies work better inside because it builds transparency and empathy, and ultimately creates trust and commitment. Working this way, using our ‘Inside Intelligence’ methodology, we really get to understand a business and don’t rely on guesswork. It allows us to collaborate on solutions immediately and focus on revenue streams rather than creative awards.

This unique model is delivered by our staff of over 900 in more than 70 on-site agencies globally.

OLIVER is part of the OLIVER Group, which was established in 2004. It is the fastest growing independent agency in the UK. In 2015, OLIVER Group acquired DARE; Aylesworth Fleming, a leading local activation marketing agency; and Marketing Matters, a premium strategic and creative agency. In 2016, OLIVER Group acquired award-winning digital content agency Adjust Your Set.

We have offices in London, Dublin, France, Germany, Netherlands, USA, Singapore, Turkey and Malaysia.

Our clients include PepsiCo, Starbucks, Vodafone, The AA, BMW, Post Office and 3M.

To find out more visit, follow us on Twitter @OLIVER_Agency, or check us out on LinkedIn:

About Future Thinking

Future Thinking is a global company of researchers, marketers, statisticians, strategists, innovators, creatives and industry experts. We take a consultative approach to market research, placing a commercial focus at the heart of everything we do, by focusing on three key areas that drive a competitive advantage – launch, communicate and experience.

We integrate qual, quant and analytics through the latest technologies to deliver research that engages audiences and drives action.

Our mission is to work alongside brands and businesses to deliver consumer and business insights that tell stories, inspire action and travel within an organisation, long after the debrief.

Future Thinking’s client portfolio includes: McDonald’s, Dixons Retail, Mercedes-Benz, ITV, Unilever, Great Western Railways, The Walt Disney company, GSK and more.

For more information, visit: or follow us on Twitter: @FutureThinkHQ

To see more of our added insights specific to Retail and Shopper follow us on Twitter: @FutureConsumer_

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Written 22nd March 2017
By ISBA Team