Are you happy with your current agency and are they delivering on the key business goals you set with them? Post the 8th Aegis Media Thought Leadership Digibate key industry panelist Dawn Rowlands, with help from Tony Koenderman, Mike Joubert, Zahn Rossouw, Luisa Mazinter and Lwandile Qokweni, look at the key issues that you should be considering if you are currently looking at changing your existing agency or embarking on the journey for the first time
A chemistry check is vital
o Is the agency relevant to my brand?
o What local insights can they bring to the party that will bring my consumers closer to my brand?
o Do they offer digital integration into the centre of mix?
o Can they deliver consistency and control?
o Do they have the technical expertise to actually implement what they offer?
o Most importantly – PEOPLE, do they have the right people to execute and do they connect and truly understand your brand and business goals?
What would lead a client to making the decision to change agencies?
One of the main drivers to approach a pitch consultant is poor servicing – agencies win accounts based on creative and lose it because of poor service. Or the campaign is not delivering the required results. And of course, the clients suspect they can get a more cost effective service elsewhere
How does the conversation start and what are the client’s current concerns around their current agency relationship?
We all need to understand that marketing and advertising is a hard business and it changes so rapidly, becoming more social and relying more and more on data and therefore it is vital that both client and agencies need to have the right skills in place to be able to navigate a brand towards achieving its business goals as clients are now demanding a true return on every R1 they invest in a campaign. It was noted by Tony Koenderman that “Agencies DO NOT listen! They are often so stuck in the way they do things that all they can focus on is how THEY will do things, as opposed to listening to the client’s true business objectives and then strategically working out how they can assist the client in achieving these goals”.
There also seems to be a lack of respect around what the clients actual budget is vs. what the agency want to produce creatively and the budget that comes with that,” said Mike Joubert of Brands Rock!
Following this comment closely was one made by Lwandile Qokweni. “Does the agency truly understand the clients market, their language, their culture and can they speak the language that the consumers converse in?”
Deal with the emotions, but make your decision based on business goals!
It’s often a very emotional decision to look to changing your agency and approaching a pitch consultant, but by the time the client gets to this point they have truly given this a lot of thought as the process is costly and risky and there will be a transition period between agencies and this needs to be well thought out as the brand needs to remain consistent in the market place and not suffer.
It is advised that clients take their time before switching agencies and it is recommend that they select two or three agencies that they feel may work well with their brand. Get their credentials, if this process is not possible then call in a pitch consultancy to assist you through this process. If you are the agency being called to pitch the key factor here is to be true to your competency – do not say you can do things and then you can’t.
From pitch to procurement!
Is there a difference between putting out a pitch to creative vs. media agencies?
The process is not that different – the bottom line is make sure you have a well designed process that will strategically take you from a large pool of candidates to a select few looking at the following criteria: credentials / track record/tight skill set/ chemistry. But this is just the beginning of the process, as once you get into the pitch room there are a number of game-changers that can influence that awarding process.
By the time you get into the room to actually pitch, you have gone through all the “health checks” and this time should be used by the client to see if the people in the room are truly the people who understand your brand and you want to partner with? If in the pitch room and the agency starts debating the costs and budgets – then you know that they are not the agency for you as they have come into the process and do not really understand your business and what sort of financial position your business is in – this should be a red flag to clients as to how the relationship is going to progress.
Currently the way in which the process works is that both client and agencies y understand that this is a start of a relationship – that starts with the dating process and then moves into the commitment phase and along the way reviews/evaluations of where the relationship is will take place and that nothing is forever.
Traditionally we have a three year contract between an agency and a client – with reviews along the way, what we should be asking is… if this is a dating game that leads to a marriage, how can we say upfront that the marriage is only going to last for a maximum of three years with an option to renew. The way in which we negotiate and contract with an agency may currently be flawed and this needs to be re-evaluated.
What we should be questioning is not the pitch process, but rather is this the right way to go about finding the right advertising/media partner for your business? There is a famous saying that goes… ”If you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur!
Before you get married ensure you have the discussion about the “marriage contract” and get the difficult issues out in plain site before you have the wedding ceremony!
Successful brands are not built around the strength of the relationship with the creative agency only, it comes from every single other specialist agencies input and that true partnership and convergence model as we are currently seeing evolve at the moment is really the critical factor and should we not see a different approach to pitches – we should be seeing a converged pitch process across all aspects of the clients business, taking the following into consideration;
o Firstly establish is you want a supplier/vendor relationship or is you want a partnership, based upon this then the terms and conditions can be identified.
o The procurement manager is guided by the marketing department and if they are happy with your service then the business is procured, but is this the right way to do things?
o Procurement departments look at the terms and conditions, ROI, execution, budgets and not at the relationship between the client service people, their jobs are to ensure that the client is getting from the agency what they said they would deliver and this often leads to conflict between the departments and you may have won the business, but problems set in soon in the process and the terms and conditions are not being met, but the client service people like each other. This again takes us back to the process of looking for an agency and being very specific about your business objectives and ensuring that the agencies you are looking at are able to fulfill all the requirements and not just the creative element.
o Often in the relationship the brand manager will change at the client and the agency is expected to be able to keep up with the changes and perhaps a new strategy that is being implemented half way through the execution process, does the procurement process and its terms and conditions allow for these changes and how are they handled?
Calling an agency out of the blue is like calling as estate agent – you get on their radar and then they don’t leave you alone – so what is the best way to approach an agency, other than the formal pitch route?
You are in the marketing arena and you are aware of players in the industry and you can informally make enquiries through general discussions via your own network, but then you have to go the formal route and get a select group of agencies to pitch. Another way to track what agencies are doing/thinking is to follow them on twitter – this gives you great insight into their though process and actions.
Professionals in the advertising industry need to be professional, realize that there is competition and focus on what they can offer then client, and not spend their time “rubbishing” the competition.
Go online and see what is being spoken about the agencies – remember that the agency does not control what is said about their brand in the market place and valuable insights can be gleamed from the social media arena. Remember that many creative agencies have their preferred partners/suppliers/buddies and will include their offerings into the pitch, but this may not be what you the client needs or what is best for your business.
The brief is the most vital part of the pitch process – ensure you get this right, be specific about what you are looking for/what you need and also what you do not need or are not looking for. Be open to collaborating with more than one agency – at the end of the day you want the best people around the table to help you achieve your business goals.
To listen to the podcast – http://www.bizradio.co.za/podcast-aegistl-digibate-choosing-the-right-agency/