Blog Posts

The Disappearing “Agency of Record” & Why …

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

This arrived today by e-mail from my friend Tim Williams who leads Ignition Consulting Group, an oft invited and well-respected presenter of “agency truths.”  I promptly called Tim to talk about the fact that he and I have come to the same conclusion about the same time.  His story is here; ours will unfold in the next two months.  Stay tuned …

Tim Williams writes:

Are you “Agency of Record” for most of your clients?  Some of your clients?  Any of your clients?  You might have answered this question differently a few years ago, but today the vast majority of agencies today provide just a few types of service for their clients.  They may have a “full service” offering but they don’t have the “full service” clients to match.
 
To prove this, prepare a simple spreadsheet with your main service offerings listed across the top. Now list your major clients down the left-hand side of the sheet.  For each client, indicate which of your services they use.  If you’re like most agencies, you’ll quickly see that not a single client retains you for true full service.  Instead, they hire you for a select group of capabilities, and work with other agencies for other services.

Time to match our business model with reality

This current state of affairs presents a real problem that most agencies aren’t willing to address; that they are structured and staffed for a business model (full-service agency of record) that began disappearing several decades ago. The only marketers looking for an AOR are small companies who have neither the budget nor the sophistication to assign and allocate marketing duties to multiple agencies. 
 
Among the larger marketers – the brands that most agencies covet – the predominant approach for working with agencies is the “Best of Breed Model” with the marketer acting integrator, surrounded by a federation of agencies who specialize in various components of the marketing mix: advertising creative, media, digital, social, experiential, CRM, etc.
 
So when your website and new business materials describe your agency as a “full-service, integrated marketing communications firm with a wide variety of services” you’re actually trying to sell something that the best and brightest target prospects aren’t really buying.  Again, this comes down to the type of client you want.  If you desire to work for your local bank, hospital, or car dealership, these types of organizations might in fact want “full service.”  But if you aspire to work with national brands, a full-service strategy won’t get you there.

Wanted: best in class

Time and again, the stellar marketers in North America indicate that their top criterion when selecting an agency partner is “the desire to focus on best-in-class specialists.”  They don’t expect any agency to be excellent in everything, and they find it curious if not a infuriating that agencies are not willing to name what they stand for.  Agency websites use such nebulous language that prospective clients are genuinely confused about what they agency actually does.  Or more importantly, what they don’t do. 
 
“Wide range of expertise” is a mutually-exclusive term that deserves to join the ranks of “airline food” or “military intelligence.”  By definition, you can’t have expertise in a wide variety of areas.  And while you’re busy selling “wide,” what clients want to hire is “deep.”  Isn’t time to start selling what your clients and prospects are really buying?

It Ain’t Always Pretty or End at a Pot of Gold …

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Agency Search Tips, Blog Posts

We want you to know we do all we can to dissuade a client from using our service to “test” a relationship. When we hear there is an incumbent, we ask “Whassup?” Why are you doing a review? An often general and reasonable reply is “franky we are both tired of each other.” But there are times when, even at that, the client elects to include that incumbent in their review. That’s something we can’t prevent and we’re not going to deny you the opportunity to win that business just because …

So here you go: March 5, 2014 (with credit to Advertising Age)
 
Mercedes sticks with PHD after review. Omnicom’s PHD is keeping its Mercedes business after a review. Mercedes owner Daimler spends a large portion of its measured media budget on Mercedes, which was the top luxury auto brand in the U.S. in 2013. “Every couple of years, you want to check outside your universe to make sure you have the best partner for your business. That’s the case with PHD,” said a spokeswoman for Mercedes-Benz USA.  
 
Shit happens …

 

A Cost You Can Cut: Agency New Business

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Back on February 2nd, Tim Williams,  Marketing author, consultant to agencies and other professional firms, student of “next practices” posted his article suggesting (most believed) that an agency could easily cut the cost of new business. There was a lively exchange of thoughts but there also seemed to be two trains of thought. Hense my post today (February 14th)

I read two topics here – the outreach and focus issue (I agree) and the actual out-of-pocket expenses. So is the agency investment in new business a larger percent of gross sales than that of most companies? I don’t have the statistics; does anyone? Who says it’s expensive? Are we talking about full-time personnel expenses? The prepatory prospecting phases or the pitches? Who says pitches have to be elaborate and costly?

I find agencies often misunderstand what they perceive as the client’s request for spec creative. If it’s specifically requested in the RFP or RFD (Request for Dialogue – our term), then maybe not. But I can’t fault any client for asking for a way both to distinguish one from another or to learn if a candidate was: listening; reading; researching … And I expect an agency to be willing to demonstrate that.

Visiting a website; looking at creative samples and even reading case studies is not sufficient. By example, some of the best agency work shown was often a collaboration between agency and client. Maybe the client volunteered the concept, the headline, much of the copy. The agency did a grand job of execution. If the searching client has no creative skills, then it may be difficult to duplicate that kind of success with that agency.

I expect an agency candidate to be willing and able to “talk” about some concepts, some campaign “themes”, some “what-if’s” to demonstrate they – GOT IT; and were willing to present some value-added to the conversation. In my mind, that’s not spec creative, and if an agency is not willing to do so, they shouldn’t be surprised if they are left at the wayside.

 

Has the definition and role of an “ad agency” changed? A LinkedIn Exchange …

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

Larry Peterson, Director of Client Engagement for JLA Advertising, Atlanta posted the question above on LinkedIn. There was substantial chatter back and forth. Contributors argued the development of new categories, new services, new “descriptions” and questioned whether ad agency was still relevant. The postings continued and I jumped back in after Larry posted this:

I  see where Chuck and Grant are coming from. But, is “Marketing Agency” too broad of a term? We were a creative and code group. Now we are getting asked to recommend Saas solutions to track and measure campaign traction even down to delivering Lead and Demand Gen to a CRM. Based on all the great input here: I think the question might be: Will the ad or marketing firm model be split between digitally accountable functional/tactical firms vs brand development/management firms vs PR and Social firms.

Chuck replied: Larry, I suggest the definition (i.e. – marketing agency) has more to do with how the firm does new business than anything else. If the firm has a strong, definitive “outreach” program using e-mail, direct mail, speech-making, active social media involvement and telephone calls to selected prospects, then message content can include whatever story and/or description the firm chooses. Without such an ongoing, assertive new business effort (which by the way, the majority of marketing firms do not have), then the firm needs inbound sources. That means far more than website keywords or page titles. Those firms need some service like AgencyFinder that employs high visibility and outreach to hook clients of all kind and size; then vector them in to appropriate database candidates that can call themselves whatever they like, finding them based on intended budget, vertical market experience, services offered, size, capitalized billings, location, etc.
 
As I suggested in an earlier post, who is going to take on the challenge and cost to educate clients to whatever new name or description we all favor? In all my years advocating, teaching and delivering various new business techniques to “agencies”, I have learned that most agency personnel are “artists” at heart and aren’t happy with the rejection that is part and parcel of the selling process. To my assertion – call yourself whatever you like, but choose your new business process carefully!

Now I ask you (Dear Reader), How do you see it?

San Francisco Advertising Agencies; Like to Work There?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

It’s a beautiful city by the Bay and a great place to live. We called it our home for 3 years. We lived in Lafayette on “Upper Happy Valley Drive.” How’s that for a campy name?

If you’d like to live and work at an agency in the San Francisco area, check out some of them in our Advertising Agency Directory. Navigate and click on San Francisco advertising agencies on the first page  and then check out the essays at individual agencies you find there. Make a note of the “ID Number” (03-1019223-XXX) of your favorites; then give us a call at 804-346-1812 to learn their identity. If it’s the West Coast you’re interested in, try Los Angeles advertising agencies or Seattle advertising agencies. Have fun!

 

When is an Advertising Agency Directory More Than a Directory?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

A number of years ago during my attendance at the InfoCommerce Conference in Philadelphia, I was talking with some big-time publishers. We were engaged in SEO-options conversations and they asked about our service. When I explained the size and scope of our registered agency database, they volunteered that the contacts and data were prime fodder for SEO search.

I wasn’t convinced, since access to and the identity of agencies in that database was clearly confidential and proprietary stuff. We aren’t an advertising agency directory but an advertising agency search service and our mission is the coupling of great clients and agencies; not to allow the unfamiliar free browsing access to those registered agencies.

When I returned home I met with our Webmaster to explore ways to provide database content but not breach the confidentiality of our advertising agency directory or the agencies themselves. We hit upon an ingenious way to do that and built website links for just that purpose (we thought). What we did accomplish was putting all the agency data (short of that which identified them) outside the firewall. It turned out a visitor could drill down to their heart’s content, but as an SEO solution, it came up short.

Now we’ve taken another crack at it. It’s a simple 3-tier proposition, starting with a 50-city alpha recap; then individual cites (Atlanta Advertising Agencies; Charlotte Advertising Agencies; Nashville Advertising Agencies by example) and ending with individual agencies. Many agencies are outside major city-centers so they don’t show up, but this new version gives searchers plenty to satisfy their curiosity. Try it!

Breaking News! Rights Group Sues to Have Chimp Recognized as Legal Person

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

We’ve been patiently waiting for something to break on this piece. Why you ask? Because earlier this year, the great folks at the Nonhuman Rights Project came to us to help them find an agency to promote their “cause” when the time came.

Their RFD (Request for Dialogue) described their mission as follows:

Mission: To change the common law status of at least some nonhuman animals from mere things, which lack the capacity to possess any legal right, to persons, who possess such fundamental rights as bodily integrity and bodily liberty. We will be asking a common law judge to recognize a specific animal (most likely a chimpanzee or elephant, for whom there is clear scientific evidence of high cognitive abilities and self-awareness, and who is demonstrably suffering from being held in abysmal conditions) to recognize this plaintiff as a legal person with the capacity for the right to bodily liberty. Whatever the outcome, we expect the case to be appealed to a state high court, where the key ruling will be made. We will then proceed to file a growing number of similar suits in other states on behalf of other animals who fit our profile.

Glenn Sagon and his team at Sagon/Phior in Los Angeles won that business. Glenn has been our contact for years and does a great job for anything he elects to pursue. Here’s the breaking news in today’s December 2nd New York Times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/science/rights-group-sues-to-have-chimp-recognized-as-legal-person.html?hp&_r=0

Visit their website for the full story: http://www.nonhumanrights.org/

The Estee Lauder Agency Review – What were they thinking!

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

What in Hell were they thinking! I’m not talking about the fine folks at Estee Lauder; I’m talking about presumably one or two within a handful of our industry’s finest agencies unable to keep a secret. So unconcerned for that matter, that by breaking confidentiality, that action stands to “disrupt” Estee Lauder’s existing relationships during the critical fourth quarter retail season this year,” the company said in the brief. What pray tell would prompt any agency employee to run to the press and break the client’s trust? And having done so, should it all end at that?

Read the story in Ad Age; decide for yourself and then feel free to comment. http://adage.com/article/agency-news/estee-lauder-readies-agency-review-2014/244278/?utm_source=daily_email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=adage&ttl=1380765212

Interesting as well, even though this story got significant publicity, first in the Ad-Age agency news of September 26th; then in the 4A’s Smart Brief the following day, other than what we posted, not a single soul posted a comment. Is this such a hot potato that no one wants to touch it? There’s a right way and a wrong way to conduct and participate in an agency review. I’m proud to say we’ve never drifted from the proper path …

Cold Calling – The Death Rattle?

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts

In the relatively new LinkedIn group New Busines Hunters, I’m seeing some of the more serious, experienced and talented folks start bobbing to the surface with stories, comments and critiques. That’s a good thing. I tend to see this as for Marketing Firms (i.e – ad agencies, pr firms, digital, experiential, and that long rattles-on list) although anyone is welcome.

Mike Lee, Managing Director at Headway Business Development in the UK started this one off – Thanks Mike! Navigate there to see his original comments, then mine along with others. http://www.linkedin.com/myGroups?trk=nav_responsive_sub_nav_groups  Neil Fawcett, managing partner at Critical Mass Communications Limited posted this today – “Great story Sean….you did it with personality…see?…you contacted a ‘future client …”

Here’s a big chunk of my take on the topic …

I knew I sensed Sean’s innate new business talent; to your point Neil, nothing succeeds unless and until you fine-tune your craft! Cold calling is not the art of making “cold calls” but having the experience, knowledge, training, self-management, charm, wit and personality to positively engage by phone with what began as a stranger and matures into a qualified prospect …

More than a few years ago when I was publishing Richmond LifeStyle Magazine, my mentor and I held serious discussions about launching a college to offer a 2-year curriculum in “professional agency sales.” Even had scouted the campus location! We got distracted but the absolute need still exists. Here and in every market.

At Richmond’s VCU Brandcenter, unless I missed it just now, there isn’t a single course devoted to “Agency New Business” – suggesting that the age-old theory that your agency’s “creative” will get you found is still how new business happens … Under what rock shall we look to find tomorrow’s agency sales people?

You Can’t Get New Business if Prospective Clients Can’t Find You

Written by ChuckMeyst2015 on . Posted in Blog Posts, Business Development

That was the headline at an AdAge Small Agency Diary article. Tom Martin, founder of Converse Digital wrote to encourage agencies to recognize that clients are resorting to search strategies of their own to find new marketing partners. I found this paragraph particularly telling – “This is the point at which many agencies now find themselves — though often they seem to be in denial. They moan and groan about the cost of participating in RFP-based new-business pitches, but aren’t positioning themselves to adapt to clients’ changing expectations, so they can compete for the new business.”

Tom continues to point out clients are searching for answers to their marketing problems; sounds so simple and straightforward, yet so many struggle to make “new business” complicated. He concludes by suggesting – “So if you’re truly tired of the RFP rat race, do something about it. Go find out what you spent last year on pitches and dedicate 25% of that to taking the steps above. Dedicate yourself to giving the system a year to generate results. I promise you, you won’t regret it.”

I couldn’t resist, I had to contribute. I posted:  Tom makes great suggestions for agencies seeking new business opportunities. For those who follow his advice, simultaneously drop the “iron curtain” screen on incoming e-mails from those not yet on your white list. Many legitimate client inquiries and even invitations get blocked and bounced by your filters. Instead, designate a specific e-mail for inquiries (not ), make that easy to find on your website, and only give one or two trusted, virus-aware individuals access to open those.

Next suggestion … with all the competition for SEO awareness, an individual agency will be hard-pressed to successfully compete for visibility in the sea of relevant search terms.  How many agencies in North America? Try 30,000. One benchmark for years has been the 15,000 count at www.Redbooks.com Regardless, there are too many fish in that pond to hope to be found all alone.

But don’t abandon your plan to optimize – register with some of the successful client/agency match-makers who make being found their stock-in-trade. They compete for relevant keywords and tend to be found before an individual agency. Those with time-tested search algorithms and deep agency databases can and do deliver the precision Tom describes. That’s what we’ve been doing at www.agencyfinder.com for 17 years.

Tracking software analytical tools are great, but they often provide more information than you can effectively absorb, and short of conducting “auto-responder marketing” to every likely individual at companies that visit, they all lack the ability to provide the visitor’s e-mail and/or name. But I’ll be first in line when that happens and is legal.

Chuck Meyst
Chairman & CEO
AgencyFinder.com

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