In this chapter, I will analyse how to choose an agency and the first thing I will consider in this point is that there is no right agency, but rather the best one for a certain customer or project. To find the best one, the Spanish Advertisers Association along with the Spanish Association of Advertising Agencies reach agreements on procedure.
The first thing that has to be thought is that selecting an advertising agency is not something that can be taken lightly, as advertising expenses are generally high but, what is much more important, the return on investment may vary a great deal depending on how things are done. What’s more, even the best agency in the world will need two to three years to give the best of itself, you have to wait.
The general rules of the selection process agreed by the mentioned associations are:
- Equity: Equal treatment and opportunities for all participating agencies, without giving privileged information.
- Confidentiality: the agency will respect the confidential nature of the information provided by the advertiser in preparing the proposal.
- Intellectual property: the advertiser will respect the intellectual property of the ideas presented by the agency that are not finally taken on. If an idea from an agency not winning is to be used, its remunerated use by the customer may be negotiated.
- Commitment: the will to establish a medium-and long-term relationship that will bring greater stability and efficiency in the work.
With respect to the steps to be followed to find the best agency, the agreements between the two associations establish:
1. Defining the basic characteristics of the agency we seek. We need the following information:
- Analysis of the role that advertising is going to play in the marketing mix of our company.
- Precise definition of the role of the agency.
- Decide whether the line of the previous communication is to be followed.
- Possible collaboration with another company or communication group.
- Geographic needs.
- Needs of size and structure of the agency.
- Need, as the case may be, for the agency to have an international network.
- Required experience.
- Circumstances that can cause conflict, competing products or customers.
- Importance of the account in the agency.
- Languages required.
- Necessary specialisation in terms of sector and technique.
- Specialised companies or services that the agency group must have and which might be important at this time or in the future.
2. Agency market analysis.
2.1. Analysis of the objective data.
The aim of this pre-selection is to find which agencies on the market cover the needs reflected in the agency profile. In order to achieve a first list of agencies (the Long List) an exhaustive analysis is needed of the objective characteristics of the broad agency market. To carry out this analysis we must have all of the necessary information through two valid paths:
a) Personally make the market analysis.
- Analyse the professional press, the yearbooks and other publications.
- Identify advertisements that are attractive and relevant.
- Contact other advertisers and ask for their agencies.
- Use the associations to find out about the agencies and their experience.
- Check the records of the most important awards in creativity and effectiveness.
- Ask for credentials from the agencies (although this might break the necessary discretion of the process).
- Other methods.
b) Require the services of a specialised consultant, which must provide:
- Updated knowledge of the market.
- Extensive information on the agencies.
- A pre-selection methodology.
- Broad experience in selection processes.
- A guarantee of quality, ethics and confidentiality.
If a good agency profile has been drawn up, the Long List will be formed by a number of agencies of between ten and fifteen. If the resulting list is too long, we must add elements to limit the agency profile to allow us to cut back on the number of candidates.
2.2. Qualitative analysis.
Having defined the Long List of agencies, we must go further into their work, their teams, their successes and try to know their updated reality (because we are enormously dynamic and changing companies). This qualitative analysis will lead us to reduce the list of agencies, and once more we will have several paths available to do this:
- Finding out personally.
- Direct consultation of the agencies.
- Use of a consultant.
Our work will have allowed us to reach a small list of agencies: the Short List. Depending on the final type of selection, this list will have three agencies if we are going to put out a tender, or up to six if the selection is to be made from personalised presentations.
3. The selection.
3.1. Direct choice.
There is a chance that the above analyses have already shown us which agency must be ours in the coming years. If this is the case, we will choose it by direct choice.
If we are still unable to decide, we must resort to one or several of the following phases:
3.2. Personalised presentations.
As an intermediary step, it might be interesting to receive personalised presentations from a maximum of six agencies, the best from those of the Long List, and visiting their offices. The Short List or list of finalists will be drawn up from these six candidates.
It is therefore possible to assess elements of personal relationship which, although they must not be primordial, do have a certain importance and need to be assessed fairly.
In these presentations, the agencies must show us the following:
- Their updated credentials:
– Number of employees.
– Management team.
– Principal shareholders.
– Accounts won and lost in recent years.
– Prices achieved in recent years.
– Complete list of customers and brands for which they work.
– Related companies.
– Services offered.
– Latest audio-visual and graphic work (reel and book).
– Any other information that might be useful.
- Their interest in our account.
- The interrelationship of services from other companies of their group, if any.
- Their experience and/or that of their teams in our sector.
We might optionally also ask them for:
- A suggested remuneration of our account.
- The presentation of some success cases in which the agency can prove their professional efficiency or their experience in similar accounts.
- A presentation of the agency’s economic situation and solvency.
These meetings, in which the work the agency will do for us is not shown, are usually very useful and make it much easier either for us to choose our agency or to select the bidders in a restricted test.
3.3. The tender.
The list of agencies for this phase must not include more than three, four if the advertiser’s present agency also takes part in the selection process. There is no advantage in falling into the temptation of extending this list.
The agencies must know the number of participants and whether the present one is included. If the process of the tender and the names of the participating agencies are confidential, the advertiser must inform them in writing.
The tender may be strategic, creative or both.
Whatever the kind of tender used, these are the basic requirements for carrying it out:
a) Prepare a clear briefing.
Including all necessary information for the agencies to compete under satisfactory conditions. It must be clear what the agency has to do in order to take part and what information is provided to them.
b) Inform the participating agencies.
Notifying them of the number of agencies called and whether the process includes the present agency.
c) Definition of the levels of finish.
Specify the level of finish expected for the campaigns, especially for television campaigns, whether only one storyboard is expected or animated models of the advertisements. Clarify, if necessary, that better finishes than that required will not gain extra points.
d) Give the decision-taking criteria.
Make the key evaluation elements on which the final decision will be based clear in the briefing (ideas, strategies, creativity, services, media, etc…)
e) Specify the required services.
Clearly break down the services that will be required from the agency (to this effect, it will not be bad to attach the profile of the original agency).
f) Inform on the economic data.
Indicate the form of remuneration and the planned contractual terms.
g) Establish a realistic calendar.
Give the agency sufficient time to prepare their presentation.
h) Remunerate the tender.
i) Allocate the key teams.
On both sides, makes the teams that would collaborate in the future development of the account responsible for the tender.
For the advertiser it is fundamental that all people who are going to take part in the decision-taking process are at all of the presentations.
j) Define a spokesperson and give equal access.
The advertiser must make it clear in the briefing which person in their organisation must be addressed by agencies looking for answers to queries and seeking clarification.
Guarantee all agencies the same ease of access during the preparation process. Realistically estimate the time that the development of the tender will take up among the advertiser’s staff in answering doubts and requests from the agencies.
k) Establish a system of assessment.
An objective assessment system must be established in the preliminary phases for judging each presentation, without being carried away by the perceptions of the time.
l) Allocate time to the presentations.
Give sufficient time for a full presentation (between two and three hours is usually enough).
m) Concentrate the presentations in time as far as possible (the same day, two consecutive days). Draw up the order of presentation and make the presentations preferably in the agency’s offices.
n) Identify those attending.
Inform the agency of the names and posts of the members of the advertiser’s staff who are going to attend the presentation. From the agency, the team that is presented must be the same as the team that will do the work if they are finally allocated it.
o) Decide quickly and inform everyone.
Do not prolong the decision-making process excessively. The ideal thing is to inform the winner within one week following the round of presentations. Report the decision both to the winning and all other agencies on the same day, and issue a press release after this.
p) Return all materials, respect intellectual property and confidentiality.
At the end of the process and once a decision has been taken, the advertiser will return all materials that the unsuccessful agencies have presented. If the advertiser wishes to use an idea of one of the agencies that failed to win the tender, they must agree with them on a price for its use and never use it without their consent.
Both parties will hold confidential all reserved materials brought to light for the tender.