Pitfalls of Agency Selection

By Michael D. Drexler

The decision for a company to seek an advertising or media agency for the first time or change an existing relationship is not easy. And to find the right agency partnership is even more difficult.

Companies hire an agency or switch to a different one for a myriad of reasons. Some of the more obvious include breaking into a new market, building or repositioning a brand, changing a corporate or brand image, turning around a brand's lagging sales, increasing market share or generating direct response.

Sometimes, however, changes are made that have little to do with the performance of the current agency. A new executive wants to start with his or her own team or the client's boardroom gets tired of a campaign long before the consumer does.

With the unbundling of media from the full service agency, media agencies have also found themselves facing many of these same issues as business goals dictate advertising as an investment, not an expense and ROI the key barometer. Whether it's offline or online, in the final analysis, results are the only thing that matter for whatever metric the advertiser chooses. And there is usually a timetable for those results to be achieved.



So how does a company select the right media agency? Whether a search consultant is used or the company decides to go it alone, specific criteria are necessary to guide both parties into a productive relationship. Some are quantifiable, while others are more subjective.

After the usual inquiry pertaining to the size of the agency, its philosophy, structure, clients, billings breakdown, office location and resources, a prospective client must drill down into more penetrating questions. How long has the agency worked for its clients and what related experience do they have? Who will work on the media team, what is their background and what other accounts do they handle? What relevant case histories can be shown to demonstrate their prowess in problem solving? What is the process the agency uses for developing an optimum offline and online media strategy and implementing the program? How does the agency benchmark and monitor itself on both qualitative and quantitative measures? What methods are used for integrating fresh, new ideas and creative thinking into the media plan? How can the agency illustrate its media buying ability as well as accountability for post-analysis and return-on-investment. And how does the agency develop its compensation structure? Another important ingredient in the selection process is understanding the "personality" of the agency. What is the most outstanding quality that differentiates them and how does this make them uniquely qualified to handle a new client's business?

It's also a good idea to ask the media agency for position papers, reports, articles and other think pieces that are relevant.

The right media agency is one that listens. Really listens. That means more than following the rules, it means

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