Why Finding An Advertising Agency is Not an Easy Task


This is a blog I recently wrote for Marketing Executives Networking Group.

Now I imagine that if you were an agency owner reading this you could be a touch frustrated. You might respond, “Look I am right here. I am easy to find.” But that is not always the case.

I look for agencies all the time when I am conducting an agency search and it’s not an easy undertaking in the New Normal. Sure you can find the usual suspects but I want to go deeper than that and find emerging talent. Then again many established agencies are invisible. Continue reading


Why Financial Services Companies Don’t Know How to Market in the New Normal.


There is no doubt that the financial industry caused the New Normal  in September of 2008 when Lehman Brothers went down or maybe even earlier.

I remember when it happened.  I happened to be in Buenos Aires buying a kitchen timer in the shape of a rotund chef and the clerk turned to me and said in Spanish that the card was denied.  I had paid my bill in full before I left but little did I understand that wouldn’t matter in the New Normal. I had not learned yet that I was a customer and customers come last in the New Normal. We all learned that watching and reading financial services ads saying that customers come first.

Many sales people employed selling financial products like insurance, financial planning, mortgages and banking don’t get that.  The try to market like everything is the same; expect compliance of course, when the world is vastly different because the companies that they work for created it.

I got a LinkedIn message from a connection from worked for a Global Wealth Management Company. I am an equal opportunity networker.  I always think that Wealth Management is a little bit of an oxymoron considering how much the average wealth of Americans declined in the New Normal.  She asked me if we should get together to get to know each other a little bit better.  Not replying is the best policy these days.  No sense in putting chum in the water.

I was having lunch the other day with a friend when my cell  rang.  Leave it alone I said but I answered.    Hi it’s Bob and I am calling from National Insurance Company.  I was calling you because we live in the same county and I wanted to discuss your life insurance needs.  I felt sorry for the guy.  Do you have any life insurance he asked?  Good bye I said.  This way a guy who worked for National Insurance Company that I am sure is publically traded and the best training they can give him is to cold call people with the sales rationale of being local.  So Old Normal.

Yet many insurance companies recruit the unemployed college graduates of today and train them the same way as Willy Loman got trained.

I was having a run the other day doing laps of my local soccer field listening to Q on the CBC. It was first thing on Monday morning. He had a two-hour interview with Joni Mitchell the other day.  The phone rang.  I didn’t recognize it.  Don’t answer it the brain said.  Home Depot is going to call about the time to install the new dishwasher.  Its Hank I said.  Mistake.

Hi it’s whoever.  We met a couple of times.  I used to work for a global financial services company like  Smith Barney, Morgan Stanley, Schwab, Merill Lynch, JPMorgan Chase,  or whatever.  I am no longer with them anymore but I recently joined another really big financial services company.  He thought that would impress me. I was looking for a priest to bless him .

Hey I am working on a really big deal and I see that you are connected to the big guy at the target company and I wonder if you would connect me?  NO is what I said. What?  He was stunned.

It’s not because financial services companies told me that my line or credit had expired during the start of the recession and doubled my minimum monthly payments or that they reduced my credit limits across the board.  It is because I don’t introduce casual acquaintances at financial services companies to strangers. That is not how you market these days.

But many financial people don’t get that.  I walked into a bank I don’t particularly like to deposit a check for a friend who now used to work in Orange County but now lives in Argentina. The teller asked me how my day is going so far?  Funny the person at Starbucks just asked me the same thing fifteen minutes ago.  I think the person at Starbucks cared about my answer more.  I felt like the teller while trying to be sincere thought I might be a mystery shopper.

I look at the thumb identity scanner on the counter and wondered if my friend from Argentina would have to put their thumb on the small screen and hope it came up with the right message.

As I finished writing  this article an e-mail popped up on my preview screen.

Trans capital Investments recently started a new Real Estate Acquisition Company.


You can connect with Hank on LinkedIn:


Follow his updates on twitter: @hankblank

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Watch a video called Why Agency Principals Need to Get Out of the Game.

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It’s Time for Agencies to Stop Giving it Away.


The Advertising Industry is a very interesting game. If you love ideas and innovation and change and craziness and stimulating people then it is a great field for you.

But, it is also a crazy business that often gives away their creativity for free.

Yet, in any city across the country you could call your local advertising agencies and say you are a client with a budget and would love to have a meeting with them so you can get some ideas from them and they will drop their drawers for free. The budget may be real, unapproved, in a planning document, or on the moon. Doesn’t matter. The client shows up and the agency performs just like the monkeys that dance for Monkey Grinders.  Remember those?

This doesn’t occur in many industries. Oh yes, I can get a free financial audit from anybody in that industry anytime, but who wants one of those? It is, however, difficult to get an insightful and introspective analysis of a company for free outside of the advertising business. And, as a bonus offer ad agencies will throw in some business building ideas for you. On top of that they will follow up by asking you how the meeting went. They will also bring in the best breakfast from the best place in town.

The last time I talked to a lawyer about an issue it cost me $400 for 30 minutes of generic advice I could have found on the internet.

Why are agencies so easy?

Well like monkeys, agencies love the elixir of possible revenue which often turns out to be peanuts. Sure, some clients are sincere in their search for a new agency partner. I have done many agency searches for clients who were very sincere and successful relationships were developed.

But 80% of clients do their own reviews and many aren’t really qualified to do that. Why? Because they are overworked, overstressed, short of people and  resources and they just don’t know how to do more than talk to a few friends they know. Clearly not the best way to find a business partner who can make or break your career or your company’s fortunes.

Some clients, just like people in life are disingenuous. They often feel pressure to achieve results that aren’t possible with the many economic and social challenges that have surfaced in the New Normal. So what is the answer for many clients?

Hey I have a great idea. Let’s do an agency review. We will be able to get great new ideas from lots of agencies to move our business forward. That sounds like a great idea Fred. How much is that going to cost us?  Nothing. We can get them to do it for free. That’s the ticket.

You don’t have to look too far to find out how great ideas can change the world and how many agencies were involved with that ideation. Great thinking is worth more than peanuts. It is time for agencies to stop dancing for free and for clients to stop asking them to dance.

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Watch:  Why It’s Time to Change the RFP Process.

Do Marketers Walk Their Talk?


One of the things I like to do is to conduct agency reviews or searches for clients.  I have conducted reviews for Toyo Tires, Jacuzzi, Jenny Craig and other companies.  I get to go on a great journey of learning that I generally share on my blogs.

Agency reviews are done very infrequently by clients and are not impulse actions.  They generally occur when there is some pain in their agency relationships and some performance shortcomings.  They may occur once in a decade for a client.

To promote my practice I often reach out from time to time to client prospects.  My expectations are low because of the cycle of reviews. I recently sent some e mails out to the Marketing Departments of one of the financial institutions I deal with. Later that day I got an e mail back from one of the marketing people asking me to delete her from my data base.  I complied.

Later that day I checked my bulk e mails in my inbox.  My daily e mail was there from that financial institution.  I get one a day every business day or about 20 in a month.  They stay in my bulk e mails. During one of my reviews for a company in the CRM space I heard many stats on how many e mails were sent out by marketers in a day as the world shifts to automated marketing.  The number was staggering.  Made the deficit seem like a small number and it isn’t.

I went home that night and checked my mail.  I probably get 2-3 direct mail pieces from the same bank in a week.  I think that they should save some money, but what do I know?  I am already banking with them.

I was with the same bank when the world melted.  I got a letter a couple of months after the banks started to falter.  They told me that my line of credit had expired.  They didn’t explain that to me when I opened the line of credit during the boom of the housing bubble;  I didn’t realize lines of credit were coupons.

I am kind of different because I like to go into a bank and talk to the tellers when I make a deposit.  I like to network in my community.  It is a better way to get the news. Lots of people behind the counters have come and gone.  Most of the people that worked there for a long time are now gone.  They are replaced by young people with smiling faces asking me, ‘how my day is going so far?’  I heard the same thing at Starbucks that morning. I don’t think anybody really cares.  It is all a corporate script and contest.    I ask them where the previous people are and they shrug.

I looked at some new posters at the bank the other day telling me that that I could count on a personal relationship with them. .  I don’t believe that for an instant. They said they were a community bank even though they are based across the country.

I am not sure that if the Marketer at the bank who told me to delete her e mail from my data base and avoid contacting her in the future was having a good day that day.  I am not sure if she designed the marketing program the bank was implementing. But I do know one thing:  Marketers have to learn that in today’s social media world the way they act at work and in life must be the same.

By the way, the name of my bank is…



You can connect with Hank on LinkedIn


Follow his updates on twitter @hankblank

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Watch his video on YouTube on Why It’s Time to Change the RFP Process.

Watch his video on YouTube on Why It’s Time to Change the RFP Process.


Are Marketers Still Stewards of the Brand?


I started working in the Advertising Business in the New Normal.  When I was a puppy and worked on my first account, McDonald’s, I was told that it was basically a privilege and to act and work accordingly. You were basically challenged to rise to the occasion.

The attitude was basically the same when I worked at JWT. To work at such a prestigious agency with so many smart people was a great achievement but also a great responsibility.

I was told basically that during my tenure of sitting in that chair and managing the account it was my responsibility not to screw it up and I grew to understand that over time. It was a great adventure in a way which opened up a whole world of experiences, challenges and learning. The bar was set very high and there were many people more than willing to sit in your chair. Continue reading