Appointing a new advertising agency
Most Marketing Managers are faced with the daunting prospect of appointing a new advertising agency at some point. Often it is thrust upon them, or someone just decides it’s time, the creatives are out of touch, the account service people don’t listen or the work is either late or not of the required standard. For someone who has seen advertising at close quarters for over a quarter of a century some things have not changed. Essentially all agencies are equal, however it’s the people that work on the business day to day, who define the quality of work. Chemistry is important, so meeting who will actually work on the business should be a major criterion. Often you meet the pitch team but once the business is won, they disappear into the background, so don’t be fooled by the early love that might appear to be in the room. The next step is easy in eliminating 90% of the contenders. Look for marketing and commercial sense as well as creative, digital and design ability. Most agencies today need to understand a business model and how marketing works within that model. If your agency doesn’t have that you should eliminate them. Look at the people who will work on your business. What is their claim to fame? Are they qualified? What have they achieved? How can their experiences help your brand? Also do they listen to you? Do you think you could listen to them?
Probably one of the major reasons agencies fall out with clients is the perception that either party does not give time and effort in listening to different points of view. A fundamental for me, from a career of working with marketing teams, is the ability and opportunity to challenge from a reasoned and logical standpoint. There is an old saying clients often get the advertising they deserve. The pursuit of excellence and unlocking the most tantalizing campaigns for a brand can only be achieved if client and agency actually challenge each other and work together. Sadly there are too many narcissists who have a view on everything, but do not use facts to influence their decisions, preferring to blame external factors for their failure to achieve results. At the end of the day an agency should be the catalyst for problem solving, whose staff talents should be geared towards developing campaigns that meet the short and longer term marketing objectives of a brand or service, with the drivers of creative, design, media, and digital resources at their disposal.
One important matter that should also be embraced is accountability. Do they go the extra yard? Do we work with them to understand why some campaigns work better than others? Are they prepared to review and critique their work?
It’s often strange to me having won a lot, and lost a lot of pitches that you often come away feeling you are unsure of what a client was really after. Why the previous incumbent failed is never really evaluated, and often the fault is put with the agency when it should be a shared. If you take the football analogy, how many teams succeed when they keep changing coaches? The ones that succeed are the ones who work together and over time develop team rules and win more games. It takes time. It takes passion. It takes inspiration and perspiration.
Appointing an agency should be a solid experience and one where the superficial creative pitch of ideas, that seldom ever see the market place, is replaced with sound logical idea options that deliver and unlock value for a brand and lead to commercial success.