Client Search News – February 3, 2003
This CLIENT SEARCH NEWS is for individuals registered @ agencyfinder.com. Forward to those in your company or others elsewhere involved in the advertising or public relations agency selection or review process.
1. The Fall of Advertising
2. Procurement Departments and Ad Agencies
3. Who Needs Consultants?
You should have been there! As one of 200 or so clients, agencies, consultants and staffers attending the January 23rd ANA Agency Relationship Forum at the New York Plaza, it was clear that every- one was, is and continues to be seriously concerned about the state of our industry. Concerned if advertising still works, if we’ll ever be able to measure and justify what we do, if clients can find the right agency without third-party assistance, if procurement (purchasing) departments are intending to take control of agency relationships, or if advertising has gone “too far.”
2003, with all it’s global, national and regional issues, is still forcing us to draw upon every creative, clever, unconventional idea we can muster to get us out of this fix we’re in.
Here’s our latest news.
THE FALL OF ADVERTISING:
At that ANA event, 115 clients, 43 agencies, 10 consultants and 32 others sat and literally gasped at times as Al Ries (The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR) pranced back and forth on the stage and pontificated about the foibles of advertising and the power of public relations. We didn’t hear him say advertising was dead, just ridiculous entertainment experiments like the Super Bowl upside-down rear-end beer-drinking clown. He used some powerful examples, in particular he spoke about Bud – the “King of Beers” (not the Queen of Beers), and about Clydesdales (not clowns). He talked about the powerful integration of first building buzz on the street, then combining that with integrated but meaningful advertising; the combination, not the demise.
There’s been lots of fuss about Al’s book (week after week in AdAge and ADWEEK), but unless I’ve missed something, there has yet to be any advertising. But there sure is plenty of buzz!
Read more at: http://www.ana.net/ana_conf/conf.htm
PROCUREMENT DEPARTMENTS AND AD AGENCIES
If your company has not yet considered the involvement of your procurement department in the client/ad agency relationship, this event signaled the fact that it’s coming. And it appears that it’s not going to go away. Why has this happened?
Companies are more and more vulnerable to the near-term success or failure of their marketing programs. Marketing – as in bringing goods and/or services to market (via advertising, public relations, sales promotion, and other such tactics) – is generally contracted to outside vendors. These ad agencies, publicists and consultants are entrusted with hard-earned, precious budgets meant to contribute to the success of these companies. Clients assume these vendors are qualified to do that.
Yet in a country where accreditation and licensing is required of doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, engineers, dentists, psychiatrists, CPA’s and even
“nail technicians”, no such requirements exist for these vendors. So those who purport to know how to craft influential and effective “marketing messages” are held to no minimum standards, nor are they required to be regulated or licensed. Marketing departments and ad agencies may not have definitive standards (methods for measure-ment or evaluating compliance), but purchasing departments have been developing them.
Marketing budgets represent a tremendous expenditure for a company, so the process of selecting a marketing vendor, or “marketing partner,” is presumably no longer entrusted only to the marketing department who might search local yellow pages or ask business colleagues or media reps for re-commendations – now procurement wants to bring their precise and meticulous methods to the table. What’s appropriate then is the integration of methodical and linear Internet search-engine processes to identify qualified agencies, coupled with compliance and accreditation issues, then high-touch examinations of non-technical essentials including “creative” and “chemistry.”
Until some form of testing and accreditation is established in the advertising industry, that makes the selection of an advertising, public relations or marketing firm a critical decision for every company and it means that existing relationships might also need to be re-examined.
Procurement departments are getting involved, and it’s here to stay.
WHO NEEDS CONSULTANTS?
In New York, the Search Consultant panel was launched with an off-putting “have you stopped beating your wife” question and things went downhill from there. That wasn’t fair, and it’s about time everyone accept the fact that consultants of all kinds are here to stay. Does that mean there’s room for a bad consultant? Certainly not!
Search consultants are needed where clients are rusty; where clients need help identifying exactly what they need in an agency, and what they don’t; when the client organization is a political hotbed that could cloud the process and confound the likelihood for any decent agency relationship; when the client isn’t necessarily looking to be certain the agency maintain profitability, or wants little more than “Kinko’s-on-call;” where a client is more impressed by attractive ads for others or doesn’t see the imperative umbilical connection between strategy and execution; or where client management wants a “kept” shop to name-drop, rather than an extended-life marketing partner.
What’s the Search Consultant’s job? To facilitate the coming together of a handful of well pre-qualified agency candidates and a prepared, rehearsed client. To guide the client through that myriad of steps and examinations that will allow the client (not the consultant) to clearly see which agency is ultimately the best choice. It means no tedious, redundant RFI’s or RFP’s. It means allowing each agency to speak with the client directly – no screening or big-brother thing. It means allowing open dialogue and due-diligence early-on so agencies can see to drop out – saving time and much money. It means first visits and capability presentations at each agency and not at client headquarters. It means client briefing documents (and non-disclosures) so each competing agency doesn’t have to assume or speculate. And it means no spec creative.
If it’s a New York client and a New York consultant, it’s pretty easy to find a New York agency. A quite lunch at a big table, AdAge and ADWEEK top-100 lists, ADWEEK and Redbook directories, a generously circulated invitation and a tip to Stuart Elliott at the New York Times. But most clients want and deserve more than a “good-olde-boys” review. So above and beyond all the handholding and professional guidance, the search consultant owes each client the use of a meticulous process to identify that handful (not a shotgun field) of pre-qualified and worthy candidates.
That’s when clients need consultants.
Charles G. Meyst, Chairman/CEO
Business Partnering International, Ltd.
Vantage Place, 4327 Cox Road
Glen Allen, Virginia 23060 USA