Ad Agency New Business Activity Is On The Increase!

September 8, 2009

Increased activity

There seem to be a number of mixed messages about the current state of the industry floating around out there right now. However, current RFP activity is up and there appear to be a lot of accounts on the move.

While doyens of our industry like Sir Martin of WPP and Michael Roth of IPG, continue to deliver tales of doom about the current state of the industry, actual RFP activity seems to picking up. The trend appears to include a broad mix of accounts, from the large multinationals all the way through to the smaller regional players. One midsize agency I spoke to last week, told me that they had five RFP’s come in over the transom in the last 10 days. Three of which came from the pitch consultants. Interesting to note, not one of them were the result of outbound agency prospecting efforts.

As expected, the pitch consultants continue to be very active in this arena. However, an interesting twist, is the trend for these consultants to take on smaller regional agency searches that historically they would not have been involved in. In addition, they are becoming increasingly involved with agency searches for large stand alone projects versus the traditional AOR type assignments. Competition is tougher than ever for these accounts, with as many as 30 agencies being invited to partcipate in the first stage RFI process and, as many as seven or eight going through to the final round. For example, there is currently an RFI out in the market for Digital AOR  of a large multinational client. In this instance no less than twenty digital agencies have been invited to respond to the initial RFI. 

Currently, there appear to be just as many agency searches being handled directly by client companies. These range from regional hospital groups searching for a brand strategy agency, to searches for social media specialists.

This activity seems to line up with a recent survey finding published on emarketer.com. According to a recent ANA survey, the marketers surveyed in summer 2009 were more than twice as likely to expect a budget increase in the next six months compared with January-February.

If your agency has not experienced an upturn in new business activity over the last 60 days, you might want to take this opportunity to review your new business strategy and outreach efforts.

 

 

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What Babies Can Teach Ad Agency New Business Executives About Prospecting.

September 1, 2009

Lisa Back2Back Head Shot

Guest post by Lisa Colantuono, Managing Partner, AAR Partners & Co-Founder, Access Confidential. “Cracking The Clutter”, what babies can teach ad agency new business executives about prospecting.

 Many new business executives in the industry know that I’m in love with a two-foot, 26lb little guy…yes, my nephew.  And if you want to see my little love, every Saturday I post a new photo of him on Facebook.  So besides getting a real work-out once a week during my babysitting session with him, I realized he also exemplified how new business executives should think about prospecting.  How?  Let me explain.

 There isn’t an agency that meets with AAR Partners that doesn’t start or end with one of the following questions, “What are successful agencies doing to crack the clutter or how do agencies attract clients’ attention?”  We often hear their answer is strictly setting objectives, developing pitch lists, determining goals and being extremely focused on categories or target markets where the agency has knee-deep experience.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inaccurate with this approach but the value of exemplifying unexpected results is often forgotten!

 Babies (like my favorites nephew) are captivated by the most unexpected results.  Adults, on the other hand, focus on the outcomes that are the most relevant to their goals.  They focus on objects and objectives that will be most useful to them.  But babies play with objects that will teach them the most!  The key…they draw on anything new, unexpected or informative.

 At AAR Partners, we receive hundreds of letters, mailers, emails, credential and collateral pieces that seem well…rather programmed, “more about me and less about you” and simply expected.  The element of surprise (or the value of exemplifying unexpected results), isn’t usually communicated.  Agencies fall into the same pattern of churning out information about the agency and often forget to be informative.  They forget to teach their prospect something of value

 Babies are captivated by unexpected results…just like CMO’s!  They need to see the value, something new or be surprised by unexpected results.  They need to know that their brand is going to attract consumers by pulling them, rather than pushing them along.  Crystallize how your agency has demonstrated unexpected and exceptional results for clients’ business, make it relevant to the specific advertiser you’re speaking to and in turn, captivate the prospect. 

 So the next time you see a baby captivated by something unexpected (or informative), remember, that’s the concept of how an agency could crack the clutter.  And the results can be rewarding for everyone.

 (AAR Partners has been managing agency reviews for the past three decades.  Access Confidential is the comprehensive new business database, putting science behind the art of new business.)

 

 

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What Sparks An Ad Agency Review?

August 14, 2009

Ad Agency review

The most feared event for every ad agency leader is that dreaded call from a key client, informing you that they have decided to put their advertising account into review. Behind the decision are normally numerous factors, some controllable from an agency perspective and some not.

If you have been following my blog, by now you will have heard me go on about minimizing client churn ad nauseam. That’s because I consider it, without doubt, one of the most important pillars in my “Five Pillar Agency Growth Strategy” approach. Churn has to be proactively managed and supported by robust “Key Account Strategies”.

Some of the causes that lead to a review are beyond the agency’s control. In such cases there is really nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. There are others though, that fall into the controllable category and can therefore be minimized or at least influenced by agency management.

Let’s start with some examples of the uncontrollable.

  • New CMO comes on Board
  • Client company merger or acquisition (change in control)
  • Global ad agency realignment
  • Disappointing business results
  • Geographic relocation
  • Term of contract expires and regulations require it to go out to tender
  • Unprofessional behavior on the part of a client or agency staff member.

Now let’s focus on some of those that are controllable.

  • Lack of pro-active thinking and fresh ideas
  • Lack of integration of ideas. The agency works in silos versus working for the greater benefit of the client/brand.
  • Lack luster work that fails to deliver the expected results.
  • Client driven by ROI, analytics and measurement, while the agency remains focused on creative, gut feel and fails to embrace metrics and measurement.
  • Excessive turnover within the account service team leading to client dissatisfaction.
  • The need for new or additional capabilities, channels or media that the agency is perceived to or does not have.
  • Disconnect between the brand strategy and the creative execution.
  • Perceived gap in the client/agency relationship from a price/value perspective.
  • Noticeable lack of innovation and innovative thinking around the brand.
  • Agency perceived as not flexible or agile enough.

Every one of the causes listed above can help trigger the decision to put the account up for review. The biggest contributor however, (although not always stated directly), is the clients perception that the agency does not share their worries and ultimately does not care if they succeed or not.

Leslie Winthrop from AAR Partners tells this amazing story about a client company that approached her about conducting an agency review for their advertising account. On further questioning the client told Leslie that they were happy with the work and results, liked the people and enjoyed working with them. Surprised by the answers Leslie asked why then did they want to hold a review? The clients answer was simply, “Because I do not think they share my worries and it does not appear to matter to them if I succeed or not. I feel that I am out there on my own.”

Makes you think doesn’t it?  

 

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Words of Wisdom from The Ad Agency Pitch Consultants

August 12, 2009

words of wisdom 2

The other day, I came across a collection of notes I had taken during various presentations, given by some of the top names amongst pitch consultants. The tips contained in them are as pertinent today as they were then, so I decided to aggregate a selection of them in one post and share them with all of you.

  • Think very carefully before deciding to defend when your client decides to put their account up for review. On average you have only a 1/18 chance of winning, so the odds are heavily weighted against you. (Dave Beals – Jones, Lundin, Beals)
  • If you believe that the client RFP is requesting excessive information, go ahead and push back, and submit what you are comfortable with. The most important thing you can do is look at the issues within the questions and adequately address them. ( Ann Billock – Ark Advisors)
  • Does size matter? It all depends. If the business being awarded is likely to overwhelm your agency, then yes it does. If the client needs an international network, yes. It’s about horses for courses. In some instances smaller can compete with big if they are able to leverage strategic partnerships. (Hasan Ramusevic – Hasan & Co.)
  • Every agency claims to have a proprietary process or philosophy. Bottom line is that there is just too much BS out there, as the agency world drinks its own Kool-Aid. Show them ideas backed by research and validate how you intend to produce results. (Lisa Colantuono – AAR Partners)
  • Do clients who ask for it really want and buy cutting edge work? Seldom does a counter a culture approach prevail. Ask more questions and try to validate their requests. If you are still unsure, then give them one of each so you are covered. (Ann Billock – Ark Advisors)
  •  Never stretch the truth when answering an RFP. If you feel that you have to in order to be competitive then pull out. Define what you cannot answer truthfully and ask the client or consultant why you were included on the list. It might be something specific you have that interests them, in which case focus there and leave out answers where you have to. (Lorraine Rojek – RCG Consulting)
  • How do we crack the clutter with our new business prospecting? The letter should address a specific challenge or opportunity. The supporting materials should do exactly that. Support the letter with a clear and consistent message based on actionable insights. The materials should also effectively differentiate your agency brand. Simple, easy to read and direct. No coffee table books, gimmicks or tchotchke! (Leslie Winthrop – AAR Partners)
  • Never include the prospects title in your new business materials unless you know it to be accurate. Titles change all the time and often many of the compiled lists are already out of date when you use them. (Cleve Langton – New Business 3.0)

Rocket science…No. Worth remembering…Yes

 

 

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