Ways to Get More from Your Advertising Agency: The Agency Perspective

October 1, 2002

1. Check the balance of power

  • Fundamental flaw: allowing one function (creative or account) to have more juice.
  • The best creative comes from a two-headed monster (there shouldn't be any division within your agency).
  • You need business minded creative people and creative business people on your account.

2. Do a category review

  • Do competitors have better, more creative advertising?
  • Clients are entitled to the best. If you're not getting the best (marketing solutions, strategic thinking, creative executions), FIRE the agency.
  • Don't settle.

3. Long-term agency relationships are nice but irrelevant today

  • There is a tendency to build sacred cows and rules of how things should be done to get approval.
  • You shouldn't regularly dump your agency, but don't be afraid to change when ideas, service, or creative becomes stale.
  • It's not easy to change, but relationships shouldn't be built on "that's the way we've done it in the past."

4. Integration is an overused word

  • True integration of agency services is not possible unless all functions report to one profit center (versus multiple profits centers).
  • There must be a singular brand steward within the agency. Each group head (pr, direct, promotion, etc) must be accountable to one person.
  • Seamless integration of services is key. Do all the pieces of the agency work in concert?

5. It's NOT the economy, STUPID!

  • You can't blame marketing problems on the economy.
  • Things are obviously tougher today, but that's why you have agency resources--to solve problems.
  • If your agency is hiding behind the cloak of the economy, it's probably hiding deficiencies. FIRE them if they cannot solve marketing issues.

6. Needed - a few good men/women

  • Breakthrough efforts are usually the result of small, focused, dedicated group.
  • The fewer cooks, the better.
  • As much as you can deconstruct your agency, you'll get better results, faster.

7. How does your agency define brand?

  • Brand is not attributes (faster, whiter, cleaner). These are only a short lived advantage which can be taken away from you.
  • Brand is a shared value system.
  • Features can be ordinary. Adding values brings the brand alive and will stand the test of time.
  • You don't need a better mousetrap to win. You need a better connection to customer values.

8. Reevaluate how you look at ideas

  • Kill storyboards (for instance).
  • Great ideas can be expressed in one sentence, paragraph. If it can't be expressed succinctly, it's not a great idea it's an execution.
  • Example - Direct TV: create an installer who is the embodiment of the brand, who comes and delivers joy everywhere, and has marvelous interactions with people.
  • Challenge your agency to present ideas in sentence without images and without aids.

9. Awards are worthless

  • If your agency is interested in or talks about awards, you have the wrong agency.
  • Awards are judged by those who have too much time and not enough work to do. They base value on creativity, not results.
  • Awards have nothing to do with what a good agency does for living--creating great work that builds brands and moves business.

10. Commissions are for car salesmen

  • Commissions are absurd and irrelevant.
  • Commissions have nothing to do with fair payment for service rendered. They don't make sense. Pay is based on budget size not on the amount of work.
  • One simple model:
    • Audit every quarter (everybody wins).

11. Agency business is fat and slow

  • Cut time and cut budgets.
  • Cutting will save time, money and get you to market faster (today speed is the most important criteria).
  • Cutting will force your agency to be more creative, stop fooling around, and come up with better ideas.
  • Speed is critical. It is better to be wrong one out of four times than to not to be in the market with idea.
  • Less is more.

12. All your messaging needs to be doing double duty

  • The best messages embody both brand essence and your sales call (call to action, price).
  • The hard selling stuff delivers when the brand promise is attached.
  • Deliver a little retail in every message. It should be mixture of beauty and the beast - brand essence and the kill (the sale).

13. Kill agency elitism

  • Agency people are not special, they're just like you.
  • Agency creatives shouldn't have to be handled with kid gloves.
  • Take them off their pedestal - if they won't come down, FIRE them.

14. It's always broken

  • No matter how well you're doing, you need to ask what else can we / should we be doing?
  • Constantly ask your agency "what have you done for me lately?"
  • Consistently go forward with attitude "it's broken, how do we fix it?"

15. Have fun with agency, but beware of the schmooze

  • If you're not having fun, get a new agency. This job's too hard not to have fun.
  • Agency should be juiced and excited to work on your business and have fun doing so.
  • If your agency is trying hard to schmooze, are they covering up something else? Camaraderie good, but remember that they are your business partner, not your best friends.

Final Thoughts

Smart business people are risk adverse.

  • Breakthrough ideas are less risky.
  • Ideas should not offend or polarize. Great work is inclusive (may not be relevant to all, but should not take people out of the equation).
  • New is smart. Risk for risk's sake is silly; smart innovative thinking is actually less risky.

Do your homework.

  • Agencies are not mysteries.
  • Even big agencies really only have a few good people--get them on your account.

"15 Ways to Get More from Your Advertising Agency." Donny Deutsch, Chairman and CEO, Deutsch. Inc.. ANA Annual Conference, 2002.