Today’s advertisers look beyond price alone when searching for a media agency, and they are much more precise in the questions they ask and the partnerships they want to build. Collaboration is key, with marketing and procurement teams working together to ensure that the winning media agency is the best fit for the company and will deliver both value and improved media quality to the business.
As the world’s leading agency search consultant, ID Comms has been partnering with the world’s most ambitious brands to help them find the right media agency partners. According to the latest reports from COMVergence, ID Comms has managed over 25% of the media reviews globally in 2018. In the past couple of years, ID Comms has managed reviews for more than $20bn of media investments. We believe that searching for a new media agency is a very important process for your business, and therefore every agency search is conducted to secure the agency that will be right for your business.
Searching for a new media agency is a huge effort for both brands and agencies. Agency reviews can take a lot of time and resource, therefore it is critical for your business to make the most of the opportunity it offers.
So much business is up for grabs every year, that media agencies, who are under constant pressure to deliver growth, have to make decisions about what they can afford to compete for. A big global agency review can cost participating agencies hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional expenses, and that's excluding the soft costs of shifting staff away from existing workstreams.
ID Comms’ research, conducted in partnership with the 4A's (The trade body, representing the interests of agencies in the US), highlights just where advertisers are getting it wrong during an agency review. The main pain point shows that many marketers and sourcing teams seem to let themselves down is the lack of openness with agencies on objectives and the search process itself, especially around how agency efforts will be evaluated. This is usually a result of a poor preparation and lack of alignment between marketing and procurement teams.
In an age of increased demands for transparency, agency search should be a two-way street and marketers have to be more transparent about their ambitions and objectives to create the foundations for a more trusting relationship with their agencies. This approach helps avoid confusion and subjectivity, that can influence the outcome of an agency review.
Advertisers that take the media agency search process seriously put extra effort into the three areas of the process: clarity of the brief, robust evaluation criteria, and the alignment of the internal team behind company’s strategic ambition for media.
In our experience, advertisers need to approach the agency review with a clear vision for what they want media to do for their business. Many agency search briefs we have seen have been written by advertisers unable to articulate what they actually want. Brand’s RFP (request for proposal) for media should be focused on areas that are material to delivering business objectives.
The media agency review should stress-test participating agencies in appropriate ways. Using challenges aligned to your media ambitions will help ensure that the chosen agency will meet your business needs and the requirements of all internal stakeholders.
The agency review structure should purposefully engineer a gradual increase in competitive tension as the agencies progress through the review, culminating in the final stages of negotiation with a shortlist of candidate agencies open and able to commit to the bespoke demands of the advertisers.
It’s a good practice to determine the detailed evaluation criteria at the very early stage of the search process and be open about it with participating agencies. The scoring mechanics are unique for each business, but should always be based on the commercial parts of media pricing and agency fees, the agencies capabilities, people and culture. Decision based solely on the commercial offering might result in cost savings, but might not be able to fulfil your ambition for media.
Advertisers need to upgrade how they judge media agencies buying capability. Media pricing exercises in pitches have become highly complex, with advertisers now demanding exhaustive calculations and an incredible breadth of pricing data from agencies. This is good business for the auditors for sure, but this creates a huge drag on agency resources that would add more value elsewhere. Advertisers need to be less demanding in this part of the process, and instead focus on the 80 percent of the media budget that takes 20 percent of the time to audit and then invest the time saved into new methodologies to more effectively audit digital media, especially where that is auction-based.
Our recent work with a global CPG business involved a few months of pitch preparation before the agencies were invited in to the process. It is important to dedicate enough time to thoroughly prepare.
This helped clarify the ambition of the review, identify the internal stakeholders from across the business (and around the world) who would be involved in scoring the agencies and define the criteria for evaluation so everyone knew up front exactly how 'great' would be judged.
ID Comms search consultants always ensure a process will suit the objectives of the review. In some cases, we help to define these objectives based on a deep understanding of the advertiser’s media requirements; and sometimes it requires to push back and help advertisers to implement good client behaviors before initiating the search process. This then informs both strategic and commercial briefs, so the agencies can be tested in the right areas.
Our recent work with a global CPG business involved a few months of pitch preparation before the agencies were invited in to the process. We believe it is important to dedicate enough time to thoroughly prepare.
Agency search consultant support will enable internal stakeholder alignment on the key decisions early on in the process in areas such as: how agency performance will be evaluated, the relative weighting of each component and, especially important, the voting protocol by which the final decision will be made, while also ensuring that all client teams feel invested in the process and are comfortable with the approach.
Expert media management support, if used properly, can add enormous value, helping any advertiser run a serious and well-considered media agency review.
Brands that approach reviews in the wrong way risk significant damage both commercially and reputationally. For those advertisers that get it right, the ability to drive massive media value enables media to truly act as a lever for business growth and secure a long-term competitive advantage.
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