Don’t Ask—”Am I getting the Best Agency?” Pose a Different Question.

Today, the agency of record is being replaced with the agency du jour …


Today, the agency of record is being replaced with the agency du jour. Media agency reviews are part of the “new normal.”

But do they need to be? More importantly, are they helping?

Of course, there are times when a review is the right thing for the business– especially at a time when the media landscape itself is changing so fundamentally. It is a marketer’s responsibility to ensure that the right resources are in place for their brands. Additionally, many clients today feel angst and mistrust as transparency issues continue to take center stage in top management discussions. Sadly, the notion of the agency as a ‘partner’ has become a quaint idea for many. It’s easy to see why agency reviews have become so pervasive.

Nevertheless, many believe the pitch process has gotten out of control, especially given how the disruption, human energy expenditure and actual cost often taxes an entire operation. This is not only the cost to the agency, which has certainly been well documented and bemoaned, but the cost to the client and the business. Pitches today can span six to twelve months, which certainly interrupts the flow of business in a world that looks for seamless solutions and immediate response. That’s a tremendous distraction from the business of growing the business.

Changing agencies often discounts the value of continuity at a time when continuous improvement and optimization are key. Optimization is the job in today’s media agency. All those FTEs at the agency aren’t negotiating pricing so much as they’re optimizing outcomes. They are mining data to refine targets and personalize messaging through a process that constantly moves, changes, and tweaks placements to find the higher return. As much as the data itself is prized, the magic lies in how it is interpreted and applied. Surely there is value in that experience. How does one become a learning organization without valuing what’s been learned?”

An enduring agency relationship benefits the advertiser, not just the agency. An enduring relationship doesn’t mean– can’t mean– a stagnant relationship. Maintaining an enduring relationship at optimum performance – getting the agency’s best – requires ongoing attention and discipline, ongoing measurement of performance and ongoing refinement of goals and expectations. Also, both parties need to be able to review the contractual terms regularly and be open to amendments and addenda as required. Terms that made sense only a year ago may not be optimum today.

After decades of working with all the agency groups and nearly every agency brand, I am often asked which agencies are best. I can only say that all of them are capable of work that is outstanding and of work that is unworthy. So maybe the question shouldn’t be: Am I getting the best agency? But rather: Am I getting my agency’s best?“