Is price more important than effectiveness for the future of your brand?

IAPI’s Aisling Conlon explains some of the reasoning behind the recent launch of the organisation’s ‘Finding the Right Agency’ guidelines.

Our industry is changing rapidly. New technology and the economic downturn have really affected our day-to-day business. We are an industry that is creative and cutting edge.

However marketing managers still use an antiquated process to find an advertising agency to work with. They line up a long list of agencies, all of whom produce speculative creative campaigns, most of which will never see the light of day. Yet deciding factors are often these imaginary campaigns dreamt up at short notice without much contact with the client and /or the lowest possible price.

This is an expensive and wasteful process for both agencies and clients. Even worse, it can lead to an advertising campaign that might not be effective.

What is important when looking for the right agency? Well chemistry for one thing. Put another way, your relationship with the agency. Does the agency understand your business?  What is the quality of the team who will work on your account? What is their track record – for example, work done for existing clients, the quality of their strategic planning, measures of effectiveness and of course remuneration? These are the things that should be at the forefront of any marketing director’s mind.

Once you have decided on the agency you intend to work with, it is important to arrange effectiveness reviews. IAPI runs ad-land’s most prestigious awards, the Advertising Effectiveness Awards. These are all about the agency and client proving a return on marketing investment.

It never fails to amaze the judges how few entries contain econometrics or granular detail on ROI, which is a big minus considering ROI is a clear definition of effectiveness. In order to have an advertising campaign that delivers, you need to have a transparent relationship with your agency, allowing them access to data. The effectiveness of a campaign should be tracked and discussed at regular intervals.  Both agency and brand manager have shared interest in bringing the value of advertising and the work we do back to the board table. We need to have figures to hand that demonstrate clearly why advertising budgets shouldn’t be cut.

This all leads back to finding the right agency to work with. Don’t choose on the pretty pictures presented in a pitch and certainly not the price.  Follow these key principles:

* Limit the number of agencies on your short list. Start out with chemistry meetings to shorten your list.
* Opt for a ‘strategic-only  pitch’, which drills down to the root of your business objectives wherever possible,  rather than the full strategic-creative pitch.

* Never ask for creative work to be ‘put in an envelope’ with no opportunity for face to face meetings.

The emphasis should be on strategy, chemistry and evaluating the track record of competing agencies.

With the launch of the Finding the Right Agency guidelines we aren’t suggesting everyone goes out to pitch tomorrow. We’re saying look at how your agency/client relationship works. Is it as effective as it could be? If you decide that you need to go to pitch then log on to the website where you will find everything you need to make the right decision for the future of your brand.

Aisling Conlon is the Business Development Manager in IAPI. 

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