A perfect match: Finding the best advertising agency

Every Monday night at 9.30 pm, journalist and media commentator, Steve Price is joined by Marketing guru Paul Gardner to discuss all things media, marketing and advertising on 2GB, 3AW and 4BC. On March 7, 2016 they were talking about the process of finding and selecting the right advertising, media and marketing suppliers to make that Perfect Match.

How to find the best advertising agency

Steve and Paul interviewed Darren Woolley, CEO and founder of TrinityP3, who launched a commercial service to the business community on Valentine’s Day, 2016 called Perfect Match.

Find the best advertising agency, perfect match.

They also interviewed former AMP Director of Marketing, Cam Cimino for an advertisers perspective on the process of finding the Perfect March for your marketing requirements.

You can listen to the full interview here courtesy of 2GB

The television game show “Perfect Match” was based on the Amercian Game show, The Dating Game” and ran on Network Ten from 1984 to 1989 and again in 1991 then on the Seven Network in 2002. An episode of the show can be viewed here.

Transcript of the interview

Steve:

Yes, every Monday night I can’t pretend to imagine what the secret sound is this week.  It’s like those FM radio stations that still play that old secret sound competition.  You come up with this music snatch every week and I’m supposed to work out what it’s about.

Paul:

Well I send you an email about half an hour before we talk, you have to read it, it tells you all about it.

Steve:

I’ve got a story to tell you later about Perfect Match.  I’ve got a family link that I’ll tell you about.

Paul:

You look a bit like Dexter.

Steve:

I’ll tell you about that, thanks, I’ll tell you about that later.  I’ll tell you what, the former host of Perfect Match, Greg Evans, I sat at a table with him at the end of December at the 70th birthday party of one Sam Newman.

Now the reason that Greg Evans from Perfect Match was there was when I was running 3AW, I, in one of my stranger programming decisions, paired up Greg Evans and Sam Newman to do breakfast to fill in over summer on the breakfast programme.  It was less than successful, let me tell you.

Paul:

Well, they’re very different types, aren’t they?

Steve:

One of the funniest interviews that they ever conducted was when they thought they would speak to Bill Collins, the movie reviewer.

Paul:

Mr. Movies.

Steve:

Mr. Movies.  And so the producer rang Bill Collins and they got about half way through the interview and Bill Collins said, “You think you’re talking to the movie reviewer, don’t you?”

They were actually speaking to the race caller.  And they figured that they had the wrong Bill Collins when he didn’t know anything about The Godfather.  Anyway, that was the funniest part of their whole show.

Now, why have we got Perfect Match as our theme this week?

The perfect commercial match

Paul:

Well Perfect Match is a concept that really interests me for commercial proposition.  I always wonder how do you match an advertising agency or a media group with a marketing company? How do you find the commercial perfect match?

The person we’re talking to tonight not only understands how to do that, but he also has a product called, ‘Perfect Match‘ where you use an agency database of more than 3,000 agencies to help companies find the best fit marketing suppliers.

Steve:

He’s on the line, how are you Darren?

Darren:

I’m very well Steve, thank you.

Steve:

Great name, ‘Perfect Match’, did you have to pay to use that as a company name?

Darren:

I think it’s in common use Steve, I don’t think they’ve got a trademark on Perfect Match otherwise none of us would ever get married.

Steve:

You don’t have it on permanent loop at headquarters do you, on the TV monitors?

Darren:

I don’t want to torture my staff.

Paul:

Darren, as the founder and global CEO of TrinityP3, you’ve been doing this a long time now.  How do you review an agency?  How do you find the perfect agency?

Darren:

Well look, it’s becoming increasingly complex Paul. You mentioned creative agencies and media agencies, but that 3,000 plus on our database has got digital agencies, has got sports marketing, it’s got event companies. Marketing these days, or advertising even, is not just about making ads and putting it into media.

Paul:

One of the things that interests me from your business as a business consultant or marketing consultant, is that angst you have.  So as I understand it, there’s a lot, the clients love what you do because you know how agencies operate, but a lot of agencies aren’t that crazy about it because it feels as though you’re filtering communications and the possibility of building a relationship.  How do you balance that?

Darren:

What we try and do is actually increase the opportunities. I have to admit, there are some people out there, and especially many procurement teams within organisations that actually try and shut that down. But such an important part of the way marketers work with their various agencies is based on chemistry and the only way they can really get an understanding of the chemistry between themselves and a prospective agency is actually by working with them.

So we actually have a process that encourages that interaction and doesn’t shut it down. The only caveat I’d put on that is that we make sure that everyone gets a fair go.

Paul:

If I look back over the past twelve months, I can count about twenty big agency reviews. The biggest ones of course were Qantas and Schweppes and Campbells Arnotts which went pretty well but then there was Woolworths.  A fifth agency in four years, what’s gone wrong there?

Darren:

I think a lot of this is when a marketing team or even the organisation are trying to fix problems by shooting the agency, shooting the external supplier.  In fact, one of the things we do when someone phones up and says, “I need a new agency”, is spend quite a bit of time to work out why, because it’s like a friend of mine who’s been married five times and he says, “Oh everyone was hopeless”.  Well the only common thing in all those five marriages was him.

Steve:

See, I look at that Woolworths message, “Fresh” is the latest one, isn’t it?  And I’m confused.  Do they use Jamie Oliver?

Paul:

Yep.

Steve:

I don’t see anything wrong with that.  But their business is going badly.

Paul:

They want to go the “cheap, cheap, cheap” way to fight the status quo and down deeper and down sort of stuff and they’re all over the place.  They have no consistency in their message surely but a question for Darren, so Woolworths ring you up and say, “Listen, we’re not happy with agency number five in four years, we need another one”, what do you say to them?

Steve:

Well, don’t you go, “Darren who’s been the most successful agency advertising groceries?” and go and hire them?

Manage conflict and measure performance

Darren:

Well except that they probably have a conflict because they’re working for Coles or IGA or Aldi.

Steve:

Oh yeah, I forgot that bit.

Darren:

That’s one of the big issues.  One of the big categories that there’s a lot of conflict is financial services because as a category, there’s hundreds of them and most of them have agencies and in fact in some categories like telcos, we see that the big telcos actually sign up half a dozen agencies just to stop their competitors from being able to use them.

Paul:

What about the client that comes and says, “We still like our current agency, but we just want to put them through the test”, so it’s not a sham pitch, but it’s pretty close to it.  How do you handle something like that from a consulting point of view?

Darren:

Well what we try and do is discuss being able to measure their performance and benchmark their remuneration and their outputs against the market because you can imagine that over sixteen years, we’ve got experience across all sorts of different categories, different agencies.

We’ve got a huge amount of data and so without actually having to go to market – because the problem is you’re exposing your business, and often confidential aspects of your business – to up to half a dozen different companies, why not avoid that risk and just benchmark your current agency and see if there’s ways you can improve the performance before you change.  A bit like marriage counselling before you get a divorce.

Steve:

Is one of the most common mistakes that somebody running a big marketing department or even the CEO of a business, they get too close to the agency and the personal relationships that are formed colour their decision making and the agency isn’t delivering but the personal relationships are so strong that no one wants to change?

Darren:

Yeah and that’s a really difficult situation Steve because the fact is that most business relationships are actually based on personal relationships and connections.  So it’s an important part of the fabric.

What you need to do is constantly have more rational measures of whether it is performing or not, and not just relying on opinion.  “Oh the agency is not as effective as they were, they’re not as creative as they were”, is often just subjective opinion.

The really smart agencies connect themselves to the board or CEO level so when they’re under performing at the marketing level, they still hang in there because of those connections.

Steve:

I had a CEO of a radio station that I worked for. They had a very close relationship with an advertising agency.  He really liked the guy that ran the ad agency.  It was a small agency and the CEO wouldn’t hear of any other agency doing the campaigns for the radio station. It was a talk station and this guy came up with this wacky idea that it would be good, “If you listen to 3AW you can have a good yak” as in Y-A-K.

Paul:

I remember that.

Steve:

He produced these stupid fluffy yak toys and made all of the executives have it in their office.  It was appalling but he would not listen to reason that it was dumb.

Paul:

Well I’m not sure how to comment on that Steve.

Steve:

Well, you can.

Paul:

Look, advertising.

Steve:

Would you have something to do with it?

Find a Perfect Match for not-for-profit organisations

Paul:

No, advertising creativity is subjective, isn’t it?  That’s why I think what we’re trying to do here is to try and work out what Darren’s business has done with TrinityP3 and other businesses like that. They actually say, “How do we measure this in an objective manner that will get the best result?”  So I think that’s what happens.

Darren, one thing I wanted to ask you is, when you’re dealing with not for profits or charities, is it a different case or do you treat them exactly the same as a commercial proposition?

Darren:

It’s a totally different approach that we’d take because what we find is the agency world, the agency category, often really do want to work on those not for profits and it’s part of being good corporate citizens but also it can really galvanise an agency team to feel like they’re working on something substantial other than selling toilet rolls and the like.

So what we do is we focus on making it more about the relationship and the personal commitment than it is about the more commercial side of it because in fact, the commercial side really stacks up to the level of commitment or value that the agency will deliver.

Steve:

Great pleasure to catch up with you Darren, thanks for giving Paul and I some time tonight, I appreciate it.

Darren:

My pleasure, thanks very much.

The Perfect Match television game show

Steve:

Yep, Monday night, great to have you in the studio with us again.  Perfect Match. We talked about Perfect Match just before. My former sister-in-law was on Perfect Match as the female co-host with Greg Evans.

Paul:

Oh really?  I thought she was.

Steve:

Remember the robot, Dexter?

Paul:

I was going to say, she wasn’t Dexter was she?

Steve:

No, Tiffany Lamb was the co-host of Perfect Match.  Do you remember how big that show was?

Paul:

It was huge, it was a monstrous hit.  In fact, I know a person who met her husband on Perfect Match.

Steve:

Really?

Paul:

And their last name is Neat.

Steve:  

And they’re still together?

Paul:

Still together.  Debbie and Michael Neat, isn’t it great?

Steve:

So for those younger members of our audience who don’t remember it, you had one dorky bloke who would come in and sit behind a screen.

Paul:

Well not necessarily a dorky bloke.

Steve:

And three girls on the other side.

Paul:

Glams.

Steve:

And he’d ask questions, wouldn’t he?

Paul:

And he’d get the perfect match, whatever their answers were, they’d get the match up and they went on a date and then they came back.  A chaperoned date I must point out.

Steve:

I guess it’s the early version of Bachelor and Bachelorette.

Paul:

That’s exactly what it is.

Steve:

Sex sells. Were they allowed to have sex when they had the perfect match?

Paul:

I could ring Debbie Neat later and ask her if you like but I don’t think we really want to know that answer do we?

The advertisers Perfect Match

Steve:

Ring her online. Anyway, we’re talking perfect match about how a company finds a great match with an advertising agency.  We were talking to Darren Woolley who is the boss of TrinityP3.

Now we’re going to go to somebody who would’ve been in a position, in their company, to have to choose who to do their advertising for them.  You’ve got a guest on the line, Cam Cimino who is the boss of marketing, was the former boss of marketing for AMP.  Cam, how are you?

Cam:

Good thanks Steve, and you?

Steve:

Yeah very good thank you.  Did you watch Perfect Match or are you not old enough?

Cam:

I did.  No, no, I’m old enough, I remember that show very well.

Steve:

And Cam, having known your beautiful wife, I can only assume you didn’t meet her on Perfect Match, but you might have in a more traditional Italian way I’m sure.

Cam:

No, I didn’t.

Paul:

Cam, on a perfect match from a commercial point of view, how do you find the perfect agency?  Now your business of course is famousmarketing.com.au but prior to that with AMP and AXA, how did you go about finding who the best agency is?  Is it, qualitative or quantitative?

Cam:

So Paul it’s both to be honest with you.  So I think you need to throw the net pretty wide to get a good understanding of what the agencies offer in the marketplace that you operate in and once you’ve got that net fairly wide, you start to narrow it and there’s a bunch of things that you look at to help you to narrow and determine what or who the best agency is.

So as you said earlier, it’s both quantitative and qualitative.  So qualitatively it’s really important once you start meeting the agencies and the individuals and personalities that work within the agencies to see whether you think as the leader of the marketing team in that organisation, whether you think there’ll be a cultural fit.

So chemistry is really important and so that’s the qualitative side of the relationship and I know from personal experience, having a good relationship with the senior people within the agencies, the Planning Director, the Creative Director, the individual running the agency as well, the Managing Director or the CEO, I think that’s really important because the agency becomes a very important part of the team.

Chemistry versus capabilities

Paul:

Cam, one of the things that interests me there when you talked about that, if you have a wonderful relationship with an agency who puts up a sub-standard presentation, versus an agency you don’t have any rapport with who puts up the best presentation you’ve ever seen, which way do you lean?

Cam:

I’d probably still lean towards the relationship.

Steve:

Gee, that’s interesting.

Cam:

Yeah, absolutely because I think you can have a more frank conversation with that organisation.

Steve:

So you don’t then go to the people you’ve got a relationship with and go, “Look, your presentation wasn’t great.  This other mob came in and it was fantastic.  Why don’t we pinch their idea and you do it for me?”

Cam:

No, no, you never do that.

Steve:

Oh really?

Cam:

No, no.  So I think fundamentally, the other part that’s really important is more the quantitative side and so when we were appointing agencies, what I also looked for was, how much work had that agency actually done to understand my business? How much had they done to understand who my customers were?  And, how do they demonstrate that understanding?

I guess that’s in the presentation of the work and really, the perfect outcome is where you have a really good cultural fit or good chemistry with the individuals within the agency, but also proof that they’ve done the work and generally if they’ve done the work, the presentation or the pitches that they put forward are usually pretty good.

Perfect Match culture and expectations

Steve:

I’ve only ever had one direct experience with this.  I was Deputy Editor of the Daily Paper and for some reason, management said, “Let’s get some of the working journos into the pitch from the advertising agencies to work out how to sell the paper”.

Paul:

Oh no!  Seriously! Expert copywriters arrive.

Steve:

So this guy turns up, probably with a pony tail and driving a Porsche in those days I would’ve thought.  The first question I asked when we got to the question and answer part after the presentation, was I said, “What did you make of Page 1 of the paper today?”  And he had no idea, he hadn’t read it.

Paul:

Oh is that right?

Steve:

He didn’t know what was on it.

Paul:

Are you serious?

Steve:

Yeah, had no idea.

Paul:

The worst one I ever had with the newspapers was when we went to a pitch for Herald Weekly Times and the Creative Director was there and he was reading The Age.

Steve:

Got to get rid of that.

Paul:

Hey listen Cam, let’s take that philosophy down a bit further.  You’ve found the guy, you’ve got this terrific relationship with these people, the work wasn’t as good but you know, that’s okay, you can live with that, you can work with that.  You go a few months down the track, the work still hasn’t improved, they’re still ripper guys and you have to go and fire them.  How hard is that?

Cam:

Very difficult.  So I think any business relationship, especially if you like them, it makes it even harder.  But I think at the end of the day it’s a commercial relationship so if the work doesn’t improve, then you do have to do it.

I think the earlier you have those conversations, the better.  And so ultimately, and I know I’ve experienced this, I’ve been on that side of the fence where you have to have those tough conversations, but I think again, the earlier you start having those conversations, it’s not a surprise to the agency because you’ve put them on notice that if the work doesn’t improve, then you do have to fire them or you’ve got to find somebody that can help you to achieve what you need to achieve in the business that you’re operating.

Steve:

From the outside looking in, insurance would seem to me to be a difficult thing to sell.

Cam:

Yes.

Steve:

Can you remember when someone came in with a zinger campaign and you thought, “You beauty, that’s it, that’s really going to make our business fly”?

Cam:

Yeah I can.   So I know, one of the big pitches that I’ve been involved in from I guess the client side shall we say or from the business side, was when I was looking after the marketing area for the AXA business.

We had a relationship with an agency that went back about twenty odd years so that was a really tough relationship to end but we had a situation where the work just kept getting worse.  We had all the tough conversations, nothing changed, we decided that we were going to go to market and it was the first time the organisation had gone to market in relation to an advertising agency and pitched the work and we did that.

Surprisingly enough, that particular agency did a really good job in the pitch but another agency that Paul was associated with, won the pitch.

Steve:

He’s looking particularly pleased with himself at this moment.

Paul:

I never prompted Cam.

Cam:

Look, to be perfectly frank with you, yes, we had a really good relationship, we kicked it off from the chemistry point of view but ultimately, the reason we made the decision we did was because of the presentation or the pitch.

It really hit the nail on the head.  We’d never seen anything like it in our industry, not only in Australia but – because AXA was a global organisation – anywhere in the globe in relation to financial services and in fact, that particular campaign, we ended up using it in twelve different countries around the world.

Steve:

Well clearly it worked.

Cam:

It was very effective.  Yeah, very, very effective.  And again, the work’s really important but we also had a really good relationship with the individuals that worked within the agency and I know the team considered those individuals part of the team and it was a really good relationship and also the work was fantastic.

Using a Perfect Match third party consultant

Steve:

Cam, one of the things we talked to Darren Woolley about previously was about the concept of employing an outside consultant.  Have you ever done that yourself or do you think it’s your job?

Cam:

Well it’s what I do today really.  So I do some of that today.  Look, I think that’s important to do because it gives you a different perspective.  I know I’ve been involved in agency pitches with consultants and without consultants.  I think I prefer the one with consultants because they manage to get access to a greater group that you can talk to.

They also bring insights from other pitches that they’ve been involved in.  So they give you insights because if you’re the director of a marketing department within an organisation, you don’t go through a review from an advertising agency point of view very often, or hopefully you don’t do that very often.

Whereas these consultants, they do it, maybe a few times every year and so they bring a very different perspective to the table and I know that I’ve always found it very useful to use consultants as opposed to situations where we haven’t.

Steve:

Well, thank you very much for your time tonight.  It’s been fascinating talking to you Cam, thanks a lot.

Cam:

No worries, thanks Steve, thanks Paul.

Steve:

Well a couple of great guests again tonight.  I think though, you keep coming back to those personal relationships.  You must’ve had, given the job that you did, a whole bunch of really strong personal relationships.  Did you ever get to the point where one of your good mates running a business had to tell you that they didn’t want you anymore?

Paul:

I think when you get to a situation where they’re your mates, they don’t have to tell you, you know.

Steve:

Really?

Paul:

I think so, yeah.  You know if you’re doing a good job or a bad job, you know yourself what you do here, you know if you had a great show or a poor show.  No one has to ring up and say, “Hey that was a poor show Steve”.

Steve:

But that never happens.

Paul:

Not on Monday nights anyway.

Steve:

It doesn’t happen on any nights, but anyway.  Sometimes maybe we’re off our game a little bit.  See you next week.

Paul:

Thanks Dexter,

TrinityP3 understand that pitching, in today’s climate, is not always viable. What are your options? Find out about TrinityP3’s Perfect Match service here

Dexter_The_Robot

 

About Darren Woolley

Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 – Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren’s Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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