Should you manage paid media internally? The pros and cons of doing your own digital advertising

21 July 2023

Thoughts by Olly Reed

Photo by NordWood Themes

If you’re working in marketing in 2023, paid digital advertising is no doubt one of the strongest and most important tactics in your brand's arsenal. Paid digital channels can be hugely powerful tools for growing your audience, extending your reach, and ultimately driving revenue.

Over my career I’ve worked internally at charities and attractions, sat on association boards, and helped run creative agencies. I’ve managed paid advertising myself, helped internal teams do it, employed agencies to help, and now that I’m at Navigate, I work with the gurus internally who are experts at paid media. 

But, no matter the size of your organisation, it's important to weigh up the pros and cons of managing paid media yourself versus hiring an agency to handle it for you.

Handling paid media yourself 

// Working with tight budgets

By handling the advertising yourself, you can save money on fees reducing the immediate cost. If you’ve got team members with a lot of time spare, they can take on managing the budgets for activity. Although, you’ll still need to factor in the media budget, and the staff members' time, resources, equipment, training etc. Costs can soon add up when you’re not careful, so when working out your return on investment, it’s important to work out which will work better for you.

// Complete control

Managing internally, you have complete control over your advertising campaigns, allowing you to test and tweak different strategies more easily. This can take a lot of time, but if you have a lot of free time, why not try it?

// Flexibility on activity  

You can make changes to your campaigns at any time without needing to go through an intermediary. Sometimes with big agencies, their response time can take a little while to come through. Luckily, our team at Navigate have direct contact with our clients and can make urgent changes as soon as needed.

// Use of resources

Creating and managing advertising campaigns can be time-consuming, which can take away from other important aspects of running your core role. I used to set aside time in my diary for managing and optimising paid media campaigns, but when internal priorities, meetings or deadlines come in, the first thing to be moved or forgotten is the paid media work. Having an agency whose sole focus is paid media means you have time to do what you enjoy.  

// A little experience can be a dangerous thing  

If you lack experience with digital advertising, you may not be able to create effective campaigns like an agency with a team of experts and experience. It is easy to burn through media spend with broad or untargeted activity, leaving you with nothing to show. Do you know how to create a media plan? An ad plan? Do you have an optimisation strategy?  

// Can you take it to the next level? 

As your organisation grows, you may struggle to keep up with the demands of managing your advertising campaigns. Multiple campaigns, channels, creative, events, experiences etc, all take hours of time to manage properly.  

Example paid media advertising campaigns from our team

Using an agency for paid media  

// Can you save money by doing it in-house?

Hiring an agency can be more expensive than handling the advertising yourself. But, think of it like this. If you are going to build an extension in your home, doing it yourself will be much cheaper, but it will also take more time, won’t be a priority, and if you get things wrong, it’ll get more expensive than just hiring an expert to take care of it in the first place.  

// Less control?

When using an agency, you'll need to rely on them to make decisions regarding your advertising campaigns. However, working with a sector specialist agency like us at Navigate, we collaborate with you to use your internal insights with our external expertise. We’re industry experts and can use our knowledge from our other clients in the sector to help you stay informed and on top of your activity.

// Do you still have flexibility?

Some agencies may have strict processes and protocols, limiting your ability to make quick changes to your campaigns. At Navigate, we’ve worked client-side, which is why our processes allow for flexibility with our clients, as we know how things can be. We keep in touch with our clients, and have a reporting structure with live dashboards, so you know exactly what is going on.

// Years of experience and knowledge

An agency will typically have a team of experts with a wealth of experience in creating and managing advertising campaigns. Our team at Navigate have been managing paid media for decades and have achieved record results for our clients. Millions of pounds worth of sales have been secured and we’ve reached tens of millions of people with our activity.

Our team keeps up on industry trends, has training on platforms updates, and because we spend so much through digital channels, have direct relationships with the customer care teams of Meta, Google, Bing, Tiktok and others. (Good luck trying to get help with your accounts without this, they’re hard to get hold of!)

// We can go as big as you require  

An agency can easily scale its services to meet the needs of your growing business. If you’ve got new product launches, need to push on an experience, or have to grow revenue and footfall dramatically, we have a team of people that can help. Managing paid media in-house and just one person is hard to get the same results. It’s also good we have teams of people that can help with strategy, revenue growth, creative and support on other areas if needed. 

// Focus your time on the tasks you can have a big impact on 

An agency will handle all aspects of your advertising campaigns, freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business. We can design creative, craft media plans and ad copy, with you just needing to sign off before it goes live. There are certain things agencies can’t do as well as you working internally at your organisation. You know the teams, the people, the customers, the offering better than everyone. You should be focusing on the tasks you’re best at.

Example paid media advertising campaigns from our team


Ultimately, the decision of whether to handle your own paid digital advertising or hire an agency comes down to your specific business needs and resources. 

One of the best things about working with an agency like us at Navigate is that we’re sector specific, so we’ve got years of experience delivering for attractions, destinations and conservation brands. It also means we can use client benchmarks across our work. If you’re down on your targets, we can let you know if that’s the same across the sector. We’re experts in what we do.

If you have the time and experience to handle basic paid media yourself, it can be a cost-effective option. But it may be worth the extra cost if you need the expertise and scalability an agency can provide for long-term success.

Olly Reed

For over a decade, I'm proud to have worked in marketing, communications, fundraising and creative roles at some of the UK's leading tourism & purpose brands. I joined Navigate to ensure our leading marketing consultancy continues to deliver for our clients.

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