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Selecting an Agency: It’s All About Exciting Ideas

Selecting an Agency: It's All About Ideas

Participating in my first new business meeting in 1986 was an eye-opening and terrifying experience for a young account executive. Would I present my part and my agency effectively, would I crash and burn in front of my bosses, would the execs from the prospect – all much older than me – find me credible or think I’m full of shit?

I remember the questions they asked prior to the meeting: what media do you know in our space, show us recent earned coverage, how do you measure results, how will you deal with time zone issues (they were headquartered in London)? Fast forward to today, I am amazed that despite the Internet, email, advanced measurement tools and evolving media trends, the questions asked in a Request for Proposal (RFP) we receive today are remarkably the same.

This is a disservice to both the marketing team at the company and the agencies they are talking to. The reasons are many, but here are a few: there are many more media than 20 years ago, but fewer editors, and much more mobility among editors. An editor who used to stay on his or her beat for 10 years, now moves every 12-18 months and changes beats. Who you know is much less important than it used to be.. Another reason would be the need for attention. 20 years ago, while attracting eyeballs was still very important to media, there was much more focus on accurate reporting of the news. Today, it’s mostly about the eyeballs.

When companies come to agencies today, their focus should be on the ideas. Questions like..

What are the ideas that will excite their targets and push them to the company’s website?
That will help media in their quest for eyeballs?
That are different from what the company’s competitors are doing?
That will scale to take advantage of earned media, blogs, social media, video and more?

Apart from the differences in the marketing landscape I’ve outlined above, another huge difference is the sheer amount of market noise a campaign has to rise above. The stat batted about is that the average consumer receives 5,000 messages a day – except upon researching this, I learned that stat is from 2007.  The number must be near double that now. While marketing basics will create a limited amount of buzz for a company, it is the cool, different ideas that will create differentiation for the company.

I’d like to suggest that companies in the process of hiring agencies should ask agencies for examples of creative ideas and how they generated them.

What were the goals?
How did they ideate?
How did they execute?
What were the KPIs and what were the metrics against those KPIs?

A new marketing landscape calls for new ways to select agencies. Let’s get creative!

Read More: 5 Qualities of Long-Term Company/Agency Engagements
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