Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Selecting an agency

Working in an agency I have the utmost pleasure in witnessing marketing organizations in selecting their right agency partner. It’s always amazing to experience the month long process of meeting with the potential clients, sharing your team’s thinking and finally as the big reveal presenting the creative solution that in most cases will never meet the eyes of a consumer. It seems that quite a few marketers are confused about how to choose the best agency.

I believe that a client buys three fundamental elements when deciding to give an agency the “Agency of Record” status:

  • A certain philosophy, attitude, and point of view on marketing in its present and future form. Most agencies have a different take on marketing, less in how they talk and present themselves, more in how they act and show their own unspoken rules and believe systems.
  • A particular marketing process of how the agency creates the ultimate marketing solution. Most agencies have a very similar five step process from discovery to ultimate creation but the actual process, lived daily in back and forth between agency and client, will unveil significant differences beyond the high level process chart. The process is often the most unappreciated element in a pitch process but it becomes critical in building a successful client/agency relationship.
  • A unique team with its own talents, capabilities, and chemistry. It is important to know the team that will actually work on the business but as (sometimes even) more important are the senior agency leaders who are not only ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the agencies work but who are creating the unique agency culture and deciding on the level of talent in the agency, too.

It would be more productive for both parties involved, if both key teams would spend more time together before making a final decision, both on assigned task (e.g. real life business/marketing problem) and on unscripted discussions that truly show the thinking of the agency team. I am always surprised that companies are willing to make multi-million dollar decisions with large long-term implications after spending sometimes not more than 4 or 5 hours with the agency contenders.

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