How to Select An Advertising Agency from an Ad Agency Insider

advertising agency selection.

The 6 steps required to ensure the search selection aligns to the small business’ goals and objectives



Writer’s note: In the last part of Hiring an Ad Aagency series we narrowed the field of ad agency candidates. In this final part we’ll look at what the full scope of an agencies capability by asking the right questions.

One of the best experiences I had ever had was winning the Nabisco (now Kraft) account for Latin America. The Nabisco team told us that they would evaluate the agency on “A”, “B” and “C” factors and told us the weight that each factor would have in the final decision. I tailored the presentation to those factors. We won the business, then worth about $25 million.

Three years later

Three years later, they decided to hold a media review and naturally invited us to defend. They again gave us the factors and the weights. One key thing was that “strategy” would weigh 50% of the decision. Since we were the incumbents, part of the presentation focused on the fact that our strategies had increased their sales and market share considerably in every country where we managed the business.

We lost every country. I flew to NY for a post mortem and the guy who ran the Latin American operation (a super nice guy, excellent professional and still a friend) told me “Starcom came up with this pitch: their newest optimizer can shave off 30% of the cost of television and they are willing to guarantee the savings in writing”.

So that’s how Starcom won the business.

On the one hand, lesson learned. On the other hand, the results completely contradicted the brief, something that quite frankly, was a disappointment.

The advertising agency project

Ideally, you would develop a full project in which the ad agency can show its entire scope of skills from A to Z. This project should have:

  1. A brief – For example, launch of a brand new widget. This would include:
  • Some specs about the widget
  • A rationale of the selling points of the widget vs. competing widgets
  • Broad strokes about the market and competitive set. This should include enough for the agency to understand the market but not enough that they would not have to do some basic research.
  • Target market (a brief description)
  • Price point
  • Distribution

            2.  Your scoreboard – what will you be judging the presentation on? My suggestion:

Basic understanding of the brief.

  • Did they “get it”? That should be easy enough to see in the pitch.
  • Market insight and analysis –
    • Did the agency take some time to understand the market and its competitive set fully?
    • Did the agency add meaningful additions or expansions to the brief? That is, did the agency go “over an above” what you got them to show you their understanding of your goals and objectives
  • Consumer Analysis and Insight – how did the agency try to understand your buyers? This is key. An agency that does not prove that it understands your buyer will not be able to do a good job.
    • Did they do original research?
    • Desk research?
    • Did they study some trade research? Reach out to an association or trade group?
    • Do you see the consumer insights they gained applied throughout the entire case study
  • Strategic Insights and Planning – Look at their rationale. At this point, you are looking for three things:
    • Do they truly understand what the project is about and have reached “correct” conclusions
    • Did they follow a rational path to the solution and can they describe that path for you. Most good agencies have a “proprietary” strategic methodology, something that they use time after time to analyze the strategy
    • Supporting data: can the agency support the conclusions reached on the strategic stage with data?

Depending on the specific discipline you are looking for, you then need a scoreboard for that discipline

3.  Creative Product

  • How well developed is the rationale for the creative solution? The one thing you want to avoid at all costs is advertising that is creative only for the sake of being creative, without persuading your consumers, so there needs to be some sort of rationale behind it.
  • Does the core of the creative (the messaging strategy) work well in other media… does it have legs?
  • Ultimately, based on what you yourself know about your buyers… will the messaging drive your customer to buy?

Next- Media Product- Socoal Media- Team


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