A Marketer’s Strongest Muscle is the Agency: Keys to Ending the Agency Mania
February 26, 2019
A short decade ago, the world of advertising was going through major disruption with the unstoppable advance of the empowered consumer through technology and digital mediums. Now, because of this change, the advertising and marketing communication disciplines are more complex and demanding than they have ever been. Brand advertisers are under remarkable pressure to deliver business growth and marketing performance in cost-effective ways.
In turn, marketing leaders rely on the vast expertise of talented advertising and communication agencies and their wide range of specialized competencies to connect brands and consumers. Agencies provide the strategic pathways and creative inspiration that enable marketers to continuously pursue effective brand development.
However, advertisers are constantly seeking insight on how to best collaborate with their agency partners and get better work from them, while agencies often wonder how to better communicate with their clients to get what they need in order to deliver the best possible value. In the end, everyone wants long-term success, lasting relationships, productivity, and high-quality work outcomes.
The principles that govern how brands collaborate with their agency partners, and the extraordinary change that has hit the advertising industry in the last 10 years, is precisely why I wrote the next edition of Agency Mania. Disruptive media fragmentation, hyper-specialization of marketing talent, ad technology and marketing technology, digital innovation, new budget pressures, changing agency models, and increasing agency reviews told me the industry is hungry for more guidance for managing agency partnerships. Here’s more about what’s in store.
Getting the Partnerships Model Right
Marketers want to be sure they’re working with the right agencies with the right competencies, working on the right assignments, and producing great work at competitive pricing. To make this work, my rule of thumb is to build a sound agency strategy and agency portfolio. If you don’t already have one, put an agency model in place:
- Understand and document your organizational needs to build an agency model that best serves marketing teams and supports their objectives.
- Select the best-suited agency strategy, governance, and operating model to support current marketing needs, anticipate future needs, and secure executive buy-in.
- Bring the model to life. Clearly communicate expectations and rules of engagements to internal and external stakeholders.
Conduct a Successful Agency Search
Advertisers are always experimenting with more effective, streamlined ways to find and hire the best agency partner for their business — an agency partner that hopefully brings a unique and distinct offering that complements and strengthens the company’s core marketing muscle. An agency search doesn’t have to be a headache. Consider these tips:
- Given the investment in time and resources and potential work disruption, make sure that there is a fundamental business need to initiate the search.
- Follow industry principles, best practices, and methodologies to conduct an effective, fair, and expedient search process that sets the new partnership up for success.
- If you’re transitioning from one agency to another after the search, prepare carefully and manage the transition to minimize risk, disruption, and cost. Thoroughly onboard the new agency partner.
Get Your Agency to Deliver Outstanding Work
Agencies — whether internal or external — cannot deliver outstanding work without solid, comprehensive guidance and direction from clients. Period. A comprehensive annual scope of work planning and management process, combined with the use of solid client input briefs, provides the agency with a complete picture of the client opportunity they need to serve and staff for. A universal, ageless principle: advertisers must provide better briefs. Here’s how:
- Plan and define scope requirements and continuously check in on alignment with marketing plans and priorities.
- Ensure an effective and collaborative briefing process by bringing in key stakeholders (client and agency sides). Identify a single client decision maker.
- Invest the time in the briefing process, have dialogue about it, and always provide actionable feedback to the agency partner.
These are just some considerations for flexing your agency muscle in the strongest way. Advertisers must manage their agencies wisely and commit to driving greater business value from these partnerships. After all, there’s no business partnership more important than the one that holds the keys to a company’s success and longevity.
Bruno Gralpois is the co-founder and principal of Agency Mania Solutions. Recognized as a client/agency relationship guru and advisor, Bruno’s latest book Agency Mania 2nd Edition: Harnessing the Madness of Client/Agency Relations for High-Impact Results is due out later this month.