Choosing An Ad Agency Search Consultant
While there is a ton of information available online on the makings of the ideal client-agency relationship, very little has been written about the process a client might go through in order to select the right consultant to help them find the best ad agency partner.
At AdAge.com, author Michael Duda wrote some helpful counsel to any client-side marketer or procurement professional about to consider a marketing management consultant with ad agency search and selection expertise.
In short, here are his key points of wisdom (with some input from Reynolds & Fyshe):
1. Know your limits: do you need to engage a consultant for your agency search? He would, …and so would I.
- The right consultant will foster a process that suits the objectives of your agency review. A sound, consultant-led process will both scrutinize the rational elements of services needed and respect the emotional component — the human beings who represent the shops and who might actually work on your business.
- The right consultant will have both a professional and an empathetic understanding of the core issues — and will not only advocate but push back (a bit) on how you can be a better “client”. (Breaking news: Clients need to be realistic about their own organizational issues that contribute to bad breakups. An experienced consultant can help; a topic for another blog post.)
- With hundreds of agencies in Canada, it takes expertise to navigate the marketing-communications industry. A CMO or a procurement executive, who is not up-to-date with the agency industry, simply does not have the knowledge to assess agencies’ full strengths and weaknesses.
- Due to the strategic, financial and resource impacts that ‘marketing and advertising services’ have on your brand and corporate goals, consider the significant risks of a search, selection and changeover process without professional counsel. (Boards and leadership teams should be cautioned not to underestimate this risk exposure). A consultant can bring a level of ‘insurance’ to this critical marketing investment.
2. Communicate your endgame. Be up-front and open.
- You’re not simply hiring a “consultant”: you’re looking for a more effective client partnerships with a new agency.
- That could mean finding the agency that actually can implement “strong strategic thinking” and “breakthrough creative ideas” to “take your business to the next level” — the same phrases that now adorn every ‘vanilla’ press release announcing a new selection. Or it could be that you need to save “X percent in fees because of financial pressures from senior management that views marketing as more of an expense than an investment”. As much as agencies wish for the former, the marketplace reality may point to the latter.
- Knowing the real game upfront will help your consultant better assess the situation and potential agencies to involve.
3. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. Get value beyond the search.
- Many procurement teams believe it’s “their job” to handle the “vendor-selection process” and that it’s a sign of weakness to use a consultant. Some marketers are afraid that a consultant will block communication with the agencies.
- A good consultant will help fill the gaps you may not know you have, and should give you an unbiased evaluation of what is needed. Even better, a senior professional consultant can assess your organizational issues and processes/practices that may have contributed to the failure of the last agency relationship.
- The term “search” is a bit of a misnomer — many high-touch consultants actually provide significantly more value than just the selection itself. See Marcom Value Audits, Contract and Compensation and ongoing Relationship Management and evaluation. Marketers and procurement teams are encouraged to take advantage of these additional or related offerings that add significant value, tapping into the consultant’s marketing and organizational expertise.
The best client-agency relationships are built on chemistry, trust, alignment and talent. So, too, are the best client-consultant relationships.
As the leading, independant marketing management consulting firm, Reynolds & Fyshe provides expert, in-depth industry knowledge of the Canadian agency services world to more top-tier brands than anyone in Canada.
Limit your risk, and get more value from your marketing services spending. Contact us and we’ll show you how.