Tag Archives: agency review

5 Reminders When Selecting a New Branding Agency

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Now that the 60+ hour work week you’ve been tallying has finally seen fruit,  you’re now the proud parent of a recently launched brand campaign. The dust has settled, tapes delivered, it’s time to take a step back and take stock. Too bad you’re not afforded the luxury of endless time and 3 assistants. Soon, your email will be filled with feedback, customer analytics, and meeting reqs to debrief from the research department. If only they served the good donuts in those meetings.

Sorry, I got distracted.

The truth is something’s not right and you just can’t put your finger on it. You’ve decided, for one reason or another, that you will explore other options for the next creative assignment. It could be business chemistry, lackluster creative process, or just an annoying EP. Maybe the agency is showing some early tell-tale credit crunch signs of going belly up. You’re going to look at options. Agency review has become a far more common practice, perhaps you’ll stumble across a new broadcast design agency gem, one with the enthusiasm, spark, and capability offering you’ve been hankering for.

If you decide on embarking on your next agency review solo, here’s a short, nifty list of things to consider before you take the plunge. And by plunge I mean, be unlucky enough to get a hold of an eager business development executive who will call, email, and nag you weekly until you share a drink at the PROMAX New York afterparty.

  • Ask yourself: Is this review really necessary? How much effort, time, and shared business knowledge has gone into the encumbent agency?
  • Be clear with what you’re looking for in a new design firm. Identifying category skill-sets like specialist firms that focus on network branding or on-air promotion will enable you to avoid long and unnecessary pitch lists with design firms that lack the requisite skill-sets. Sure they have a great VFX reel, but you’re not going to pay them to learn how to produce a proper title sequence. This isn’t 2002.
  • Be clear on who you are involving internally with the review. There may be existing relationships within your organization that may cause unnecessary complication and emotional headaches.
  • Getting the right strategic/creative brief upfront will lay a foundation for a fruitful process. Fully explored briefs will help mitigate creative and financial risk. Part 2 of this article will explore a few universal success components of good pitches. Look for it in the coming weeks.
  • The value of pre-pitch meetings in order to establish personal, creative, and professional chemistry should not be underestimated.

And as I explained in my Guide to Distinguishing Agencies there is a new frenzy of broadast and design agencies competing for your brand assignments at any given time. They are hungrier, and more talented than ever. Recession provides a platform for change. The opportunities it gives should be neither feared nor wasted. So go out and explore your creative options!

If you would like to get my article when it posts on “10 Hot Broadcast Design Companies to Look Out for in 2009”, click here to get on my private e-list. Don’t worry, you’ll get email updates only when this blog is updated and since I don’t answer to any advertisers, your email is always held in the strictest of confidence and you will never get spammed.

…I’m off to find myself a warm buttermilk donut.

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Creative Agency Selection in 2009: Distinguishing the Indistinguishable

Whether you’re a client in advertising, broadcast, or commercial production, 2009 brings a brand new set of rules for how we search and select new creative agencies for rostering. With tense market conditions, budgets have grown increasingly conservative. Shorter production schedules and higher expectations to deliver on brand promise have made the choice in a new creative partner more critical than ever.

However, the evolution of the market and the scramble for survival amongst design firms has resulted in a convergence of near indistinguishable and homogeneous sales propositions, pitches, and service offerings. So how is it possible to distinguish the indistinguishable?

Branding touches so many parts of a client’s daily activities that it has become a full-time job simply ensuring synergy between the business units of any media organization, not to mention new creative properties being created on an organic, near constant basis.

And unlike designers and creative directors, clients don’t have the luxury of spending the majority of the day thinking about design. It is just one of the many critical business areas that are demanding their attention at any one time.

A client’s most valued and dwindling natural resource is time. Shortened deadlines and reductions of in-house resources means clients will often select a creative agency with whom they, or others in their company, have worked with before. Unfortunately, it is often easier to award an assignment to a rostered “average” consultancy than to spend time reviewing and researching a new one. Why spend countless hours briefing brand history and strategy, risking poor creative results and/or lack of return on marketing dollars?

To add complication, 2009 has brought a frenzy of design companies competing for creative assignments at any given time. Has your phone been ringing off the hook, dozens of messages from reps asking for work? You’re not alone.

Unfortunately, many design firms have failed in offering true value differentiation within their sales propositions. Their marketing materials and websites have an annoying habit of looking and sounding near identical. Too much time is spent updating and glossifying reels. An obsession with visual articulation and not enough spent communicating their true agency defining characteristics. It’s the magic that’s hard to articulate in copy, but easy to spot after just a few short meetings. And when it’s all said and done, most judge the experience by a simple question: Do I trust them with brand guardianship?

And so then how does one decide on a new creative partner? Most source candidates through a mixture of traditional strategies. Quite often, we ask our colleagues for recommendations. Some use independent specialist consultants (like myself) who actively advise on the pitch and selection process. In other circumstances, category leadership and reputation help guide the decision making process.

I had lunch with a few longtime clients of mine and asked them to share some of their thoughts on decision-influencing criteria when appointing a new consultancy. Although the answers varied based on project type and scale, almost all criteria shared similar DNA:

1 Value for Money
2 Quality of Creative
3 Level of Service
4 Category Reputation
5 Expertise in Specific Discipline
6 Location / Geographic Availability
7 Client Perception
8 Chemistry

That’s right- chemistry. The most undervalued selling point of all decision-influencing criteria. It’s the little things, as it always seems to be. Does the agency spend more time listening or talking? Do they provide considerable access to key creative talent or to some seemingly unknowledgeable rep? Are they working for your business, or on their business? And at the end of another long, exhausting day, just ask yourself: Would you say yes to a few drinks with your new creative team? If so, it could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Love to hear your thoughts, email me at denny@dennytu.com

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Filed under opinion