The year is 1971. It’s a lazy afternoon, and Gene DeWitt is nibbling away at his tuna sandwich in the office cafeteria. Gene works in an ad agency, and he’s worked pretty hard in the five years he’s been here. In that time, he’s risen from being a media planner to being the assistant media director – a spectacular rise by any standards. Gene’s career success has mirrored his agency’s – which has grown from being a $60 million firm in 1966 to around $500 million in 1971, gaining new clients flamboyantly and efficiently. The agency must be doing something as flamboyantly right, says the world, to be gaining so many clients so fast.
Thinking about all this, Gene is quite pleasantly surprised to see the group’s founder walk into the cafeteria, and choose Gene’s table to park himself. Gene dotes on the founder and knows that the agency has grown so fabulously well purely because of the fact that this very man had mastered the art of getting clients – that’s what the world said. And that’s the rarest of rare arts, Gene knows. Making full use of the gifted opportunity, Gene gets into conversation with the founder; and after the initial introductions, jumps at the first opportunity to ask the founder the question he’s always wanted to ask. In Gene’s own words, “I told him that I was amazed and delighted by the rapidity of the agency’s new business growth and asked him what his ‘secret’ formula was?”
The answer to that question makes the import of this primer, the totem of this pole, the crystal of this ball.The founder replied that while he tried to do much to market the agency to the clients, he just couldn’t point out to that one tactic that made clients choose his agency over others! The fact that this founder was none other than the legend called David Mackenzie Ogilvy made the statement more noteworthy than ever. If the lord of advertising did not know what were the factors that clients considered to chose his agency, then who would?
For any company/client, choosing an agency is the most critical part of ensuring a long-term profitable relationship. More often than not, uber haste by clients at the initial agency selection stage – perhaps because clients are too blinded by the agency’s brand name, or past work, or famous employee credentials – has resulted in a relationship that is damaging not only to the media communication of the client, but critically bloodying to the sales of the company’s products. But how then should companies be choosing their agencies?
To decode that very concept, 4Ps B&M went across the industry and the globe, to both sides of the story, to the clients, to the agencies, to experts... to give CMOs and clients the 10 sacrosanct commandments that make up the essential checklist while choosing an advertising agency. Then again, will following these tactics enable you to get the best agency? Well, we really don’t know that! But if we accept Ogilvy’s doctrine, then not following these will surely increase the probability of ending up with the worst ones. In essence, it is unpardonable for you as a CMO to ignore these ten rules while selecting an agency. If you’ve stayed with us till now, you’ll stay with us till the end; here you go:
1. Be specific about what you exactly want from the agency
‘Time is Money’. And this ineluctably is not debatable. Time has become more valuable then it ever was. Information explosion brings with it a paucity of adequate time to utilise information relevantly. In such a scenario, the idea of random pitches doesn’t sound very charming. To cut to the chase, it’s the CMO’s duty to do his/her homework before calling for a pitch to the gadzillion ad agencies around them. Says Anup Chitnis, Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy & Mather, South Asia, “Random pitching makes the floor too wide and open for multiple agencies and eats up a lot of energy and time on both sides. Clients should be more savvy with respect to what exactly they want from an ad agency; and based on that, they should call for a selective pitch”. Simultaneously, it is essential for the ad agency to do the requisite homework on the client before complaining about too many pitches. Adds Ajay Kakar, CMO, Aditya Birla Financial Services, “Something I learnt during my stint at Ogilvy was that you should yearn to be most valued by those who most value brands. If you think the client is flippant, don’t pitch.” In addition, on the topic of specifications, Rahul Mathew, Executive Creative Director, McCann Erickson avers, “The stuff we present during pitches stays confined within the walls of the client’s boardroom. I wonder why the idea presented during pitches never makes it to the final stage.” So, if you, as a client, didn’t like what an agency showed you during the pitch, why did you choose them in the first place? The corollary – if you chose them for potatoes and then ask them to handle tomatoes, quality is the first thing that goes up the altar.
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Source : IIPM Editorial, 2011.
An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).
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