NFL Type Special Teams Are Perfect For Ad Agency New Business

October 5, 2009

special teams

Special teams have been used very successfully in the NFL for many years. While they may not be on the field all the time, team members with special skills are brought into the game when they are needed to help win that play. The same approach can be used very successfully for ad agency new business.

While most agencies have a specific area of expertise/experience for which they are known for, many of the agency staff members bring with them a much broader range of experience/expertise gained in other agency environments. Quite often this expertise is dissipated across the agency’s various departments and client teams, and never brought to bear in a cohesive and organized fashion. By not doing so, you may well be missing an excellent new business opportunity!

Over the years a number of agencies have been successful using this special teams approach to target and win additional new business. By bringing together in virtual teams’ staff members, who possess certain skills or experience, they were able to create a competitive offering in the marketplace. An excellent example is Leo Burnetts’ “Kid Leo” group. A virtual group of staff with specific expertise/experience marketing to kids. Other agency groups have built similar special teams focused around marketing to women.

Special teams are a great way to break into a new category. They allow you to leverage your existing resources without having to hire on new. They aggregate the collective expertise that already exists within the agency into a credible and saleable client offering. The special team provides additional job satisfaction to your staff by allowing them to showcase their past experience and gives them an additional challenge. Best of all, they open up new sources of revenue and new client opportunities for the agency.

The risk is relatively small. If it does not work out, at least you have not invested a huge amount of money and hired on overhead that you now have to let go. It’s a great way to prove out a concept and then bring on additional resources as required.

Try conducting a simple internal audit. Ask your staff to highlight any specific category, product or target segment expertise that they have. If you identify some interesting pockets, find out how broad or deep the expertise goes. They may even have existing client contacts that could be the targets of your initial new business approaches.

You never know, this may well be the start of something big!




Social Media: Ad Agencies Just Don’t Get It.

September 14, 2009

My agency does not get it 

Social media is the antithesis of advertising. Most traditional agencies do not have the required social media skills and they struggle with how to integrate it into their overall marketing communications plans. The minority, who get it, have competitive advantage!

Awareness Networks recently hosted a webinar titled, “Social Media: Your Agency Does Not Get It…Who Does?” The speaker was Jason Falls (, a well known and respected blogger in the public relations and social media space. What makes Jason particularly relevant to the ad agency world is that he has worked with and for a host of marketing agencies.

I have listed below  a link to the podcast of the session, however before you go ahead and view it, here are some interesting highlights I wanted to share with you:

  • Most agencies tell the client that they can do anything. They then go right ahead and outsource the work. Given that the very essence of social media is transparency, agencies should either be up front with the client or invest in the capabilities beforehand.
  • He suggested a series of questions that clients ask agencies before awarding them the work. I thought you might like to know what they were, in case one of your clients was listening to the podcast:
    • What is the strategy behind your recommendations?
    • Who does the strategy
    • Does the agency have a blog?
    • Are the agencies employees on Twitter?
    • Can you share several case studies for other client work?
    • What social media mistakes have you made and what did you learn from them?
    • Who does the execution?
  • Jason maintains that ROI is easy to measure in social media, if your media programs are aligned with clear business goals.
  • The biggest challenge brands face is that there are conversations happening everywhere and most brands do not have the right people to manage social media.
  • In social media there is no B2B or B2C. It all about People2People.

I highly recommend this podcast for all agency management and new business professionals. It is especially relevant if you are thinking of expanding into social media or alternatively, currently claiming to be experts in the space without really having the ware with all to honestly deliver.




“Socialnomics” The Fuel For Future Ad Agency Growth

September 10, 2009

Social media has created a fundamental shift in the way we all communicate. In the process, we sometimes lose media, develop new media and in some cases see traditional media adapt to the new sociology and technology. A excellent new book titled “Socialnomics” explains how social media has transformed both the way we live and the way we do business.

Yesterday I was searching through some YouTube content when I found this great video about the book that highlighted almost 40 observations about the impact of social media. Some of them might be considered predictable, but many are really eye opening. What’s even more amazing is the speed at which these shifts have taken place, as well as the sheer size and geographic impact of many of them.

When I consider all of this from an ad agency perspective, it all just seems so overwhelming, yet exciting at the same time. From a sheer speed perspective, how does any agency be it specialist or full service keep up? How do they monitor these new trends and at the same time develop the expertise and capabilities to competently deliver them. Even more frightening is the concept of how an agency can stay ahead of the changes and deliver innovation and thought leadership to their clients? without resorting to the good old default approach of smoke and mirrors.

Here are a few findings from the book that I think you will find thought provoking:

  • 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 brands are links to user generated content.
  • 90% of people who can Tivo ads actually do it.
  • 25% of Americans have watched a short video on their phone in the last month.
  • 24 of the 25 largest newspapers are experiencing record declines in readership because we no longer search out news, the news comes to us.
  • By 2010 Gen Y will outnumber Baby Boomers, and 96% of them will have joined a social network.
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 4th largest between the USA and India. A true example of a global community.
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year-old females.
  • 80% of twitter usage is on mobile devices.
  • Email is passé’. In 2009 Boston College stopped distributing email addresses to young freshman.
  • There are over 200,000,000 blogs out there.

If you have not seen it already, please take a moment to view the YouTube video entitled “Social Media Revolution” by Erik Qualman. I think you will find it well worth your time. I know that it will get you thinking about your agency and whether you have the right plan and resources in place to take advantage of these changes in consumer behavior both now and in the near future. They are the fuel to a whole new world of opportunities for agencies who are embrace the changes and adapt accordingly.





Call To Arms, No More Ad Agency RFP’s!

September 3, 2009

call to arms

Is now the time to fix the RFP process? Historically ad agencies have always done their level best to scratch each others’ eyes out as they give away the farm competing for a new account. In this tough economy it’s only getting worse.

I and so many others have written about this subject over the years. The AAAA’s tried some time back to entrench a set of best practices that no one paid any attention to. The whole process remains a free for all where anything goes and in the current economy the larger agencies are even fighting over scraps they would not even have sniffed at two years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of work continue to be given away for free by agencies while clients continue to pay only for the chosen agency’s work and then leverage the euphoria of the win to negotiate a bottom dollar compensation agreement with the agency. The agency costs incurred during the pitch are most often ignored resulting in the agency having to dig itself out of a financial whole at the outset of the relationship.

For those agencies that did not prevail, the pitch becomes just another “investment” that adds to their overall new business strain and has to be funded by either existing clients, reduced agency profitability or a combination of the two. If agencies on average have a success rate of 3/10, that leaves seven lost pitches that have to be funded. It’s an unsustainable model.

Joseph Jaffe, Chief Interrupter at Crayon, recently wrote an article for Adweek entitled “No More RFP’s”. In his article he lists what he calls “10 points or calls to action…Arguably even calls to arms”.





CMO’s Have A More Positive Outlook. Are Ad Agencies Prepared and Ready?

August 27, 2009

CMO outlook

According to the July 2009 “CMO Survey” by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the AMA, CMO’s are looking more hopeful coming out of a gloomy recession. The question that comes to mind now is, do ad agencies have adequate resources to take advantage of this upturn?

59% of the marketers who responded to the survey claimed to be more optimistic about the current economy than the preceding three months. A full 47% reported being more optimistic about revenues from end customers, however, they remain concerned about lagging customer spending.

While increased CMO confidence is great, the big question is just how will their optimistic attitude affect their spending behavior? According to survey respondents, their biggest increases in spending over the next twelve months will be online marketing at 9.5%, followed by new product introductions, CRM and brand building. While overall marketing budgets are expected to increase slightly, respondents reported that they plan to slash traditional ad spending by nearly 8%.

 Customer priorities


While this is clearly good news for some agencies, it may be less so for others. No matter what your agency discipline however, these numbers are a great barometer for agency management as it relates to which capabilities to focus on and invest in. Agencies have in the recent past trimmed down their resources significantly, almost to the point where they have little to no spare bandwidth to handle any proactive or developmental work.

 While online is a very broad category and could probably have been predicted, growth in other areas like new product/service development, CRM and brand building could potentially be big opportunities for agencies of all disciplines.

 Those agencies that have both a plan and the resources to help develop these potential opportunities will benefit from the upturn. Those who are caught by surprise are likely to miss the boat.  





Naked Brits Lead Current Ad Agency Communications Planning Trend

August 26, 2009


The days of brand agencies aspiring to be the “Lead Agency” are fast disappearing. Clients are increasingly turning to specialist communications planning agencies, to help them take a more informed approach to their integrated marketing initiatives. In many instances, the work of these truly media neutral agencies informs and directs all other roster agency assignments and work.

In the US we experienced the “British Invasion” from a music perspective during 1964-66, with bands like The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Right now we are experiencing another British Invasion of a different sort: Brand Communications Planning agencies.

These agencies do no creative work or execution whatsoever. Some have developed very powerful planning tools/models, powered by a significant database of both quantitative and qualitative data, related to over 90 distinct marketing channels. They are channel planning experts and are probably the only breed of agencies who can honestly claim to be media neutral.  

One of the leaders of this invasion is a company called Naked Communications. A quick word of warning, do not go to after reading this post. It will only help to put you on the radar screen of your IT and HR department for improper use of the internet. (They have two distinct websites: and There are a number of others out there that all hale from the UK and have similarly bizarre names.

While most other agencies are out there running around claiming to be full service, fully integrated, media neutral and 360 degree agencies, specialist communications planning agencies, like Naked, are quietly and effectively taking control of more and more large advertising and marketing accounts. Early in 2008 Naked made the trade media headlines when they were awarded the Kimberley-Clark account. Take a look at what K-C said about the appointment in their press statement.

Tony Palmer, CMO at K-C, said in a statement that producing marketing efforts built around TV commercials is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. “It is incumbent on clients to take an active role in reshaping the model,” he said, adding that hiring Naked is a step in this direction. Naked’s role is to help K-C and its agency partners identify the best communications channels it can leverage, to execute specific brand programs.

Agencies like Naked usually do not replace the client’s lineup of creative and media buying agencies. Instead, Naked works like a consulting firm, advising on how to best use the roster agencies. This may cut into the revenue of traditional agencies. Kimberly-Clark, for example, did not increase its ad agency budget in order to pay for Naked’s services. Instead, the company “reallocated the spending” according to Hedy Lukas, Vice President for Integrated Marketing at Kimberly-Clark.

Not long after Naked’s appointment came the announcement from Kimberley Clark that it had decided to move a quarter of its spending into non-traditional media.

Not something a “traditional lead agency” would be likely to recommend.



Client Churn Causes 70% Of Ad Agencies To Miss Their Numbers!

August 24, 2009

miss their numbers final

If your agency has previously omitted preparing “Key Account Plans” as part of your overall agency growth strategy, these recent survey findings may convince you to do otherwise!  

In my recent national online survey (Ad Agency Business Growth Strategy Survey), I found that 57% of respondents admitted to having missed their financial numbers over the last three years due to an unexpected client loss. Another 12% claimed that while they had hit their goals, the client loss had significantly impacted their overall performance for the year.  

Based on in depth analysis of the survey information, I found conclusively that failure on the part of the agency to include “key client account plans” in their agency growth strategies, was a major contributing factor. Here are some additional findings and supporting details.

50% of total survey respondents indicated that they currently do not have “key Account Plans” in place for their top 5 agency clients. Interestingly, there is a very high correlation between these respondents and those agencies that indicated they had missed their numbers due to unexpected client churn. In fact, 87% of the respondents who said they did not have “Key Account Plans” for their top 5 clients, all had instances where they missed their financial numbers over the last 3 years!

Next, I took a deeper look at those respondents (62% of total sample) who answered yes to having clients within their agency that either run at a loss or alternatively break even at best. Just over 70% of this group also answered “no” to having key client plans in place.  

Finally, I took a look at the respondents (31% of total respondents) that answered affirmatively to having a nightmare client in the agency that their staff hates to work on. In this case, 84% of this group did not have key account plans in place for their top 5 clients.

These survey findings clearly indicate that, the omission of key client plans from an ad agency’s growth strategy can have a significant impact on its financial performance. Absence of these key client plans substantially increases the risk of the agency losing a key client, as well as increasing the incidence of poor performing clients within the agency client roster.

 If you really think about it, this should come as no surprise to any of us! In the absence of a plan how do we:

  • Plan and focus the resources needed to support our clients?
  • Consistently stay pro-active and deliver innovation?
  • Maintain client satisfaction levels, keep ahead in their category and deliver incremental value?
  • Plan and execute against organic growth targets and opportunities?
  • Integrate metrics, measurement and results into our work?
  • Optimize resource allocation and management. Making sure that we do not either under or over service the account?
  • Focus resources and effort in the areas that THE CLIENT deems of value versus what the agency values?

Bottom line! Client retention and churn management is without doubt one of, if not the most important pillar of any agency’s growth strategy. Unfortunately, most agencies do not allocate anywhere near as much focus and resources to it as they do new business. Many even overlook it altogether.

My 5 pillar agency growth strategy approach enables you to consistently deliver superior agency growth and profitability.