Among the many interesting themes to emerge from this week’s ANA Media Conference is the thought that advertisers should ‘Take Our Industry Back’, a rallying call to assert marketers’ primacy as the industry’s paymasters.

This manifested itself in a number of ways, ranging from insourcing certain aspects of media (programmatic, for example, as EA demonstrated) to the appointment of a Chief Media Officer (as illustrated by Verizon).

It is hardly surprising that advertisers want to exercise more control. They now have to juggle a vast range of activities, an unlimited range of content options, multiple brands and audiences (some segmented but increasingly identified at an individual level), across paid, owned and earned channels, including placed and user-generated social vehicles, search, mobile and traditional channels, with data analytics behind their every move.

It’s a huge job and no agency can do it all, so marketers have to provide their own glue to hold it all together.

It’s also a vital job. Advertising remains a key driver of business growth and getting the channel mix right is now essential. One of the most persuasive presentations this week came from General Mills, who showed how they used their branded platforms and content to drive business. But in many businesses ‘owned’ channels are not integrated with ‘paid’ and ‘earned’ and the result can be under-performance.

However, to the frequently asked question ‘should we take more of our needs in-house?’, the answer in most instances is ‘probably not’.

Advertisers are good at certain things, and operating advertising services is normally not one of them. Talent can be hard to find, the technology is tough to integrate and an in-house team may lack the perspective that agencies bring.

What advertisers can do, though, is set up the right framework to exercise control and succeed without the difficulties of having to bring services in-house.

This requires two essential prerequisites. Firstly, senior management has to ‘dig in’ (to quote Marc Pritchard at the conference) and make media a corporate priority. Not only is it a key growth driver, it’s a lot of money and it should be seen as a significant investment.

The CMO or equivalent , should sponsor the ‘control’ program from the top, across all the relevant content and channel vehicles , be prepared to get in among the ‘weeds’ and, if needs be ‘break some furniture’ (more Pritchardisms). The pursuit of transparency in all its many forms isn’t just housekeeping, it’s an essential tool to drive effectiveness and to help growth, and this also has to come from the top (to the top).

Yet the CMO can’t do it all and shouldn’t. The role of Chief Media Officer (or equivalent) is necessary to manage the vital levers of successful media, embracing consumer insight, media strategy, analytics, data and technology, agency relationships, contracts and much more.

The Chief Media Officer should mobilise the right resources to get the best job done and facilitate execution, binding together marketing, procurement, legal, financial, operational and technology teams. They’re the ‘outsourcer-in-chief’.

This week’s conference provided ample evidence that media is too important and just too darn big to leave to chance. External agencies play an essential role, but high-level internal control re and strong operational management are now indispensable to get media to play the business-driving role that it can.