How to do an Agency Search that will leave the losing agencies loving your company.

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Part of my scope of marketing services is conducting agency reviews or searches.  I have worked with Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and recently with Raley’s Supermarkets.

Before you do a review reflect a bit.

Agency people are just like you except they are on the agency side of the business.

In today’s economic environment, marketers have to do more with less.  The same is true with agencies but they are probably even more lean because of client cut backs.

There is also a better chance that your agency counterparts have taken a salary cut during the last year, never mind getting a salary increase.

Agencies are not cannon fodder.  They are not sitting around playing cards, basketball or goofing off.

Any review for them is going to involve extra work at night and on weekends.

The first step is to make sure that you give the agencies adequate time to prepare, respond and enough time to present.  You should schedule at least 90 minutes for a meeting with additional time for Q&A.  Would you date somebody who had to tell you about the type of person they are in 5 minutes because you squeezed the meeting into an hour?

Remember your position as a Marketer is not only a job but a responsibility.  You are the steward of the brand while you are on the watch and your responsibility is to insure that you are conducting yourself in a way that you are doing your upmost to do what is best for the brand and not expediency or politics.  If you are doing the review for political reasons or process you are doing a disservice to the brand and your personal brand.

The next step is to give the agencies a short, thorough and focused brief or RFP.  Do not give them a data dump or a box of old research and tell them to figure it out.  Give them one piece of research and ask for their recommendations. This is how your get the big idea.

Also limit the people that are involved in the process from the client side to only those individuals that have direct involvement with the agency. You are not doing a review so you can train junior employees on an agency search.  This is serious business not school. Include a very limited amount of senior management in the final presentation.  Avoid committee decision making.  You know how flawed that process is.

Also do not ask for spec creative.  Ask for thinking.  You can determine the creative capabilities of an agency by reviewing the creative work done by employees currently working at the agency.  Be explicit with the agencies telling them to be totally transparent and not present work created by individuals no longer with the agency.

In closing I always recommend hiring a reputable agency review consultant.  Marketers simply do not have the time or the knowledge to implement the type of review process each brand deserves today on their own.

Hank Blank is an agency search consultant based in Laguna Niguel, CA.  You can reach him at hank@hankblank.com or visiting his site at www.hankblank.com

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