Things I Have Learned as an Agency Review Consultant


I have conducted the Jenny Craig, Villeroy & Boch, and Raley’s Supermarkets agency reviews and many others. I began my career developing successful New Business programs for agencies.

I love doing agency reviews because I have seen it from both sides of the table.  During one search I will see more New Business presentations than an average agency will make in a year.  Some can be very stimulating and thought provoking and some can leave you looking at the clock. Most agency people would love to be flies on the wall.

So here are some observations based on my experiences:

Agencies have largely commoditized themselves.  I used to hear that term all the time and was somewhat skeptical but now, I really believe it’s true.

It is clear to me that the current review process is broken and needs to be changed.  I try to play my part and send out very short RFP’s.  I am pleased that I have as many recommendations from agencies as clients on my review process. Most of those agencies didn’t win the business.

What I see in most Capabilities submissions is submission to conformity. The majority of these Capabilities decks have the mandatory logo page of current and past experience.  This is followed by the mandatory profiles, and the mandatory agency process pages which are all derivative and mumbo jumbo. The acronym or name to describe them may be proprietary but the content is basically the same.

Then there are the client experience cases.  After all the homogenous sameness the only differentiation is relevant experience and clients tend to flock to that reassurance.

Let me also share some thoughts on agency New Business presentations.  When I send out my RFP to a list of agencies I don’t tell the agencies how to present the format, for most of the agency presentations are the same. How did that happen?

The agency President or New Business lead opens and closes the presentation.  Then other agency personnel follow in order.  Planning, Account Team, Media and then Creative followed by a close of “We Want your Business,” or “We think we’d be perfect for you.”  You’d feel indifferent as well.

Everybody stands in front of a screen looking at a PowerPoint presentation.  Often, many of the slides are all word slides. I have seen people point to the words for emphasis. I know that this isn’t new news but sadly things remain the same even though years have passed and everything has changed so much. The format is predictable and old, yet few agencies have departed from their presentation comfort.  If I can see the back of your head during a New Business presentation you aren’t connecting with me or the client in my opinion.

It may not be terrible stuff but then you drive to another part of town and you see practically the same content presented exactly the same way.  This presentation process doesn’t lead to a lot of differentiation and memorability in my opinion.  Most clients will tell me that at the end of the day it’s all a blur.  The review process in many ways is like pealing an onion with the hope of finding some fresh and different layers.

Sadly, many agencies talk about uncovering product differentiation and differences to leverage the prospective client, but showcase none for themselves.

Has your New Business presentation format changed in the last ten years?  No.  Then I bet you it is boring.

Remember that the medium is the message as that visionary Canadian Marshall McLuhan used to say.  When you say that you are going to show some fresh ideas on a monitor or screen that is older than what your kids have in their bedroom the thoughts don’t connect or convince in my opinion.  Your technology must be current.  Agencies are supposed to be at the forefront of innovation.

To be a little bit more uplifting I will share some simple ideas in my next blog on how to escape from this quicksand and stand above the crowd.  There are simple solutions.

Hank Blank frequently speaks on the New Business Process.  His presentation is called “Why Agencies Don’t Want New Business.”  To contact him to speak to your organization or agency send him an email to  He also helps clients find the right agency partners.

You can connect with Hank on Linkedin

Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank


You may also enjoy Why Small and Smart is the New Agency Model.

How Advertising Agencies Can Get More New Business.

The Most Powerful Word in Agency New Business is NO.

Or Watch This Video on Why Agencies Need to Focus on the Things That Clients Can’t Do.


8 thoughts on “Things I Have Learned as an Agency Review Consultant

  1. Ramiro Sosa

    Loved the post! Couldn’t agree more.
    However, when you are selling corn or potatoes, no matter how you sell them, at the end of the day that’s wat theya are. What I mean by this is that the current agency model is worn out. So, no matter how you present it, you’ll still get the same thing. Unless there’s something new out there. Perhaps someone should come up with a new way of doing ad business before we start seing more interesting presentations. Just my take on it. Would love to hear what you think.

  2. hankblank

    Glad that you liked it.

    There are a number of other blogs that I have written recently on how agencies can change the way they work. One was a series of articles on AE’s. In many ways they define how the agency operates. Take care.

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