Commentary

The Search For A Multichannel Ad Agency

Selecting the right advertising agency can be a daunting task, and finding an advertising agency that has expertise in direct marketing across online and offline channels can be even harder.  With today's media options, it is no longer as simple as choosing an agency that handles traditional media such as television, print or radio.  With the birth of online advertising, the process of choosing an advertising agency has become more and more complicated.  Some advertisers have an agency for search, one for display, one for television, one for creative, and so on and so on.  It can be a management and campaign success measurement nightmare.  

If an advertiser is striving for the most optimal performance from their advertising efforts, it is crucial to select the right multichannel agency.  I am certainly not saying that one should choose a multichannel agency simply for the sake of having one, but if the selection process is precisely conducted, it can be a fruitful marriage resulting in more visible rewards than a specialty shop could offer.  I have outlined some simple tips on how to select the right agency for you.

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  1. Make a list of 5-10 agencies that specialize in multichannel advertising, with specific expertise in direct marketing (recommended agencies are always good).  The direct marketing aspect is a decisive point for advertisers that hope to measure their campaign success beyond traditional delivery methods such as reach and frequency. 

 

  1. Once the agencies are identified and the preliminary due diligence is conducted, every agency selection should start with an RFP or RFI.  I could write an entire article on how to write an RFP, but for the purposes of this article, I will keep it short and sweet.  An RFP for selecting the right multichannel agency is identical to that of any agency search, with some additional critical components. 
    1. Any agency can state they have core cross-channel competencies.  Ask specific questions, such as:  What is your expertise in search, display, DRTV, performance-based and direct-response creative?  How does your agency address the convergence of these different media channels and the creative that assists and drives them?  How does benchmarking and measuring the cross-channel effect of each media channel affect campaign results and the analytics behind them?
    2. Ask what technology they have developed and/or utilize in order to flawlessly execute and seamlessly track and report.  The reporting and analysis should not be individual media channel results, but all media results and how one affects the other.
    3. Inquire about the agency involvement in any studies and/or research regarding the effect of multichannel campaigns on the overall advertising efforts.  This will help to identify agencies that are truly committed to understanding the effects of multichannel campaigns, rather than those simply trying to jump on the multichannel bandwagon.

 

  1. Start developing a relationship with the agency.  Before sending the RFP, call each agency and let them know the RFP is coming and explain the overview of the engagement.  As I stated earlier, this should be a fruitful marriage; regardless of what type of agency partner is being considered, the relationship is key.  The two companies need to have similar corporate culture, complementary personalities and a clear understanding of the goals.

 

  1. Once the RFPs are reviewed and the search is narrowed to the top two to five agencies, the advertiser should conduct in-person meetings to review the overall agency capabilities.  There should be a meeting scheduled at the advertiser's location as well as a second meeting at the agency location.  Some key items the agency should come prepared with for this initial meeting are as follows:
    1. The team that would be managing the business cross-channel. 
    2. The presentation should clearly answer any additional questions the advertiser has had since the RFP.
    3. As experts in multichannel advertising, the agency should exemplify an obvious synergy across all channels.
    4. Samples of multichannel reporting as well as at least one case study outlining a core competency in multichannel campaigns is necessary.
    5. Demonstration of the technology used is vital to instilling trust that the agency knows how and why to track, analyze, optimize and pass data cross-channel.

 

  1. Once the advertiser has made its final decision, it is critical that each agency is contacted, even the ones that were not chosen.  The advertiser should diplomatically provide the reason for the decision and provide any positive feedback based on questions the agency may have.  You never know when you are going to cross paths with the professionals you meet during this process, so treat them as you would want to be treated.

 

One final note: As we muddle through the election season, wouldn't it be interesting to get two agencies in a room to debate for an advertiser's business? 

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