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Tom DenfordSep 28, 20233 min read

Pitching in a Programmatic World

Brands Deserve Better Media

A weekly column from @tomjdenford


How does the CMO know that the agency they hired five years ago has the capabilities needed for the next five years?


Evaluating and selecting agency partners is one of the larger (and more expensive) decisions an advertiser will make. The decision involves meeting the agency and testing their capabilities to meet the needs of your brand. 


Today, as media grows more complex, choosing an agency with the best capabilities can involve some sophisticated assessments to make sure the agency selection is good today and will last into the future.  


Evidence-based decisions create sustainable agency relationships

In our experience designing and managing many of the world’s largest and most complex agency pitches (for demanding companies like LVMH, T-Mobile, Uber, Meta, J&J and more), we have found it's typical for marketers to want agency selections to be: 

  • Aligned: Ideally all those involved in working with the chosen agency have an input and are happy with the decision.


  • Evidence-based: Decisions are made based on evidence and thorough assessment so they stand up to scrutiny and are not chalked-up (and dismissed) as the CMO’s subjective whim.


  • Sustainable: You don’t want to have a redo next year on these high-value agency contracts. Never a good look. Ideally the agency relationship needs to outlast the CMO’s average tenure (not always the case).



Sitting on a moving target 

The ambitions and objectives of the pitch are usually fairly clear from the marketer. Where it gets tricky is that the underlying media market, and thereby agencies, is constantly evolving and shifting. 


Naturally, marketers need to be regularly adjusting the criteria by which they evaluate their agencies and the capabilities they need. 


We find through analysis that most agency contracts become out of date quickly because they fail to address innovations and changes in the media buying and planning process. Programmatic is a great example. Many agency contracts still view programmatic as a media channel instead of recognizing it as a technique or process. This is evident in agency contracts that apply different commission rates for programmatic media spending. Unfortunately, most agency contracts have not kept pace with the evolving complexities of programmatic media buying.



Marketers seeking new approaches

Recent insights from the Association of National Advertisers have placed greater scrutiny on how programmatic media is bought and managed by agencies. The ANA has raised questions about the lack of transparency and value in the programmatic media supply chain and issued important guidelines for their advertiser members to reduce risks and recoup wasted dollars. 


ID Comms presented a compelling case study to the World Federation of Advertisers, highlighting our successful collaboration with The Hershey Company. By enhancing their visibility, transparency, and control over programmatic media investments, we empowered them to make better, faster decisions, mitigate risks, and recover wasted resources. 



Testing agency capabilities for real. In real time.

Next week, I’ll dive into the practical steps you can take when evaluating your agency to ensure they have the right programmatic capabilities that fit your brand’s needs today and for the future. 


In the meantime, you can find useful templates, toolkits, tips and advice for running a great agency pitch on our free pitch planning site, Running An Agency Pitch. 


Brands deserve more from programmatic. Together, by improving the focus of our agency assessments and making better qualified decisions based on data and evidence (not just PowerPoint) we can raise standards in programmatic. This not only will reduce the risks for the advertiser, but will allow us to recoup waste that can be reinvested in growing our brands and delighting our customers. 


When brands get the media they deserve they flourish.


When brands grow, we all win!




This post was featured in ID Comms’ weekly column, Brands Deserve Better Media. Each week, CEO Tom Denford shares insights on media and advertising and inspires us to work together to build a better future for the industry.

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