Advertising agencies will remain Advertising Agencies as we know it. We do not have any qualms with those who like to be seen and referred to as creative hot-shops, brand activators…and all such other identities which, at best, come across as desperate attempt at differentiation, it all comes down to ideas and creative work that sell. According to Drew Cannon in her article “How To Choose an Advertising Agency” posted on inc.com in August 11, 2011, unlike in the past when advert agencies were traditionally defined along certain structures, agencies now come in varying forms today, starting from 10-men experimental to enormous traditional firms with global reach, and everything in-between.
We have come to accommodate these products of change, not minding how they present themselves, provided they keep the underlying essence of creative ideas and work that sell brands.
The focus of this piece is draw attention to the importance of advertising agency engagement and the need for brands or brand owners to see the process as very crucial to the success of their brand(s) and entire marketing success, and as such, to strictly adhere to the process, for their own good. Brand management is systematic, procedural, creative and objective-driven. These characteristics explains why on value measurement, what you get is a direct consequence of what was invested (the computer’s GIGO – garbage in, garbage-out).
The agency’s quality, strength, capability has a direct relationship and consequence on the quality of the final creative output or product. In other words, an agency-driven brand support is only as good, effective, creative, impactful and successful, to the extent the engaged advertising agency is competent. Interestingly, the competence or strength of any creative team or advertising agency can be determined, just as the creative imperatives for good and effective creative process and products are derived. Therefore, just as it is the job of the creative team to derive the imperatives for top-end creative product(s), so it is the duty of the client and/or its representative to determine the right advertising agency or team to be engaged to manage their brand.
There-in lays the justification for a systematic (and creative) agency selection process. As in every process, selecting or appointing an agency is indeed, only a process. It is open to individual determination along the gamut of adherence. The extent to which the process which we see as equally a creative process is adhered to is a function of the extent to which the selecting team considers it as important, understands its import and consequence, and its intellectual and creative capacity to judge the weighty issues. There must be the will and ability to work the process.
There have been instances where Agency selection process stretches for very long through several stages. For some clients, consultants are engaged to guide them through the process. There have also been cases where the selection process results in a tie between two or more agencies, and the final choice becomes dependent on news and more critical factors. In a situation where it becomes too difficult to clearly agree on the winner-agency, a particular business or account is shared between two agencies because they are considered equally tied based on the agreed parameters set for the selection process.
Selection and Engagement
Selecting and engaging the advertising agency for a brand is serious and as important as developing the brand itself. That is why, in ideal situation, the process is devoid of emotion. In her article “HOW TO CHOOSE AN ADVERTISING AGENCY” (posted on in.com on August 11, 2011), Drew Cannon, among other submissions, break the process into four major steps: ASKING – about for the agencies that fall within the pre-determined consideration bracket, WRITING – a request for proposal (in other words, writing the brief), SEARCH thoroughly (carefully run through a guided selection procedure), and ENTER into selection meetings prepared (agency engagement).
Cannon’s submission can be taken as a very brief summary of the ideal agency selection and engagement process, open to expansion and a more detailed and functional model. But the important thing here is that it captures the reason and operative guideline for a proper agency selection process:
The Marketing Objective
Marketing and its attendant consideration and actions are derived and determined at every point. The process starts with and ends with the client, but focused on the brand and the target market, which is the reason for being. It is the consequence of every such action on the bottom-line (which is the marketing objective for the brand and brand-owners, that makes it imperative for the right decision to be taken at every step of the way. In turn, that right step is as spelt out on the (client’s) brief.
The process starts with the client’s brief to the initially chosen agencies, inviting them to a pitch. It is upon the strength of the client’s brief, the agencies prepare for presentation at a pitch setting. In turn, invited agencies make a presentation of their proposal, which should essentially be their understanding and interpretation of the client’s brief. After the presentation, the client goes back to score the agencies based on the strength of their presentation, with the initiating brief as the reference point. Nothing is given to chance, whims and caprices; the brief takes pre-eminence over every other consideration. The very important consideration in the entire process is the brief. Therefore, the brief has to be professionally written, focused, strategically focused and robust in its consideration of immediate and future success of the brand at the market place.
The flip side of this analysis is the compromise of the ideal agency selection and engagement process. Unlike in the ideal scenario, the compromised system does not respect the brief. It is all based on personal gains, unstructured method, unsystematic process based on the whims and judgment of individuals who operate outside any pattern. The compromised system does not take the brand into consideration. The decision maker’s choice is based determined by personal relationship, immediate financial gains and other selfish considerations. That is why, as at today, over 75% of big brand management businesses are in the hands of service providers who either outright non-professionals or those who engaged in distant related endeavors such as journalism and public relations, but now positions as brand management consultants BECAUSE THEY ARE CONNECTED TO THE MAN/WOMAN WHO DECIDES WHO MANAGES THE BRAND.
In our market place, mediocrity has taken over professionalism as a consequence of corruption, greed and selfishness. Apart from the profession and professionals who suffer from this corrupt system, brands are failing, the consumer/market is suffering and investments are failing – except we go back to the ideal situation.