By Julie Constable, Head of Agency Selection at the MCCA.
Agencies and clients both feel the pain when having to dedicate time and resource to a statutory pitch. Many brands are under contractual obligation to call a review and are often perfectly happy with their agency’s service levels and output.
Whilst it’s good practice to check your supplier base against the open market how do you manage everyone’s expectations, keep the contest fair and your sanity intact?
No doubt you will try to streamline the review process by keeping the agency list short and not asking for bespoke creative work. You will pull on all your knowledge and resources and work hard to filter down your agency lists and send your RFI to no more than 10 agencies. You will follow best practice advice where it fits your internal company procedure and you will project manage the tender process with precision.
But what you won’t necessarily know is what’s going on within the competing agencies that will complicate your perfect statutory tender.
If the relationship is good and sound, your incumbent agency will consider it a cost benchmarking exercise and just commit just enough resources to tick all the boxes to retain the account.
New agencies you invite will regard it as an opportunity to showcase their talent and work and if there is a relationship within the marketing department, will pull out the stops to impress and win over the account.
So you will find that throughout the process they will do everything to build a rapport with the marketing team, secretaries and you. On the day, they will most likely present work (that you didn’t ask for) and completely wow your senior marketers.
So how do you evaluate and control the people involved in the pitch? How do you manage everyone’s expectations and navigate your way through this mine field and make sure you personally arrive at the end unscathed?
How do you make it fair whilst trying to follow best practice and minimize the time and effort from both parties? You don’t want to be too controlling and quosh an agency’s enthusiasm, but you also want to avoid too much of the ‘people’ factor skewing the decision making or getting in the way of your process.
The answer is that you can’t control it. You are dealing with agencies and they are all about people, people who you can’t control 100 per cent, so why should you try to? You can, however, manage it and protect your best practice stance. Being completely honest right from the start about why you are reviewing, what the criteria is and where the emphasis sits is all you can do. It is then completely the agencies’ decision to progress with the opportunity and to decide how much time and resource to invest.
If you engage internally with the Marketing department, set the criteria and write your review documentation and process you can set out the parameters clearly for all involved including the incumbent agency.
After the process is complete you will always have questions from all the agencies involved, no-one likes to lose business, especially if they have put a lot of time and effort into it.
Whilst you can’t please all of the people all of the time, it is possible to please yourself and deliver a great process, with minimal time wastage for all involved.
If you have an upcoming statutory review and want advice on how to manage the process, an intermediary or trade body is often the ideal solution. They advise people in your situation day in day out and have banks of information which will prove invaluable for in helping you make the all important agency choice.
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