ANA, AAAA Issue New Agency Search Guidelines

The Four As and the Association of National Advertisers unveiled a new set of guidelines Wednesday to help ad agencies and advertisers better navigate the agency search process.

The guidelines are a follow-up to a 2011 white paper that the trade groups issued that also laid out general recommendations concerning the search process.

The new guidelines, designed to supplement (not replace) the earlier recommendations, suggest that both sides of an agency search effort can save themselves a lot of time, energy and effort by adhering to a three-part process that includes an initial RFI phase, a semifinalist phase and a finalist phase.

As a general rule, a search should begin with about a dozen shops and quickly pare down to six or eight at the semifinalist phase. There should be no more than two or three finalists, per the guidelines.

Typically, a review should take no more than 12 to 16 weeks -- enough time for the client and finalists to get know each other very well -- and as importantly, to understand each other’s expectations clearly. Any longer than that is generally seen as a waste of time.



“Every phase of a review requires a brief for the agency,” Bill Duggan, group executive vice president, the ANA wrote in a “Marketing Maestros” blog entry Wednesday. “Each review phase warrants different types and levels of client briefing information.” The farther along in the process, the more detailed the information should be.

At an Advertising Week session detailing the new guidelines, Tom Finneran, evp, agency management services, the Four As, said the new guidelines were partly intended to help marketers avoid writing the “RFP from Hell,” which demands a lot of irrelevant information.

Marketers should avoid using the search process to go “idea shopping,” the new guidelines suggest. For example, RFPs should avoid asking agencies to solve a client’s business problem or solicit strategic or creative ideas on the brand’s current situation.

The new guidelines can be found at both the Four As and ANA Web sites. 

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