8 ‘Less Obvious’ Reasons Why Agencies Lose Pitches

This post is by David Angell, General Manager of the fast growing Melbourne market and National Head of Media. David has extensive commercial and media experience gained through a fifteen year career in media agencies, which he uses to help drive optimal results for TrinityP3 clients.

Agencies lose pitches

Pitches can be very capricious. The blend of human intuition, rhetoric, substance and circumstance can make even the best agency lose over the course of a pitch process.

No one says that it’s perfect. But there’s a world of difference between a well-run pitch process and a bad one.

Some mistakes are clichés…some are not.

There are some pitch mistakes, made by agencies, which are obvious although often repeated (chest thumping attitude, not listening, not bringing the right people, banging on about oneself, profound gender skews in meeting rooms, etc).

But there are some others that may go unnoticed by many.

The agencies who have pitched and lost on projects I’ve run with my team at TrinityP3 may be familiar with some of what follows, as I tend to try and provide as much feedback as I can – beyond the blasé, meaningless platitude of ‘you were a close second’ to something more insightful, that may even be used by said agency at a later date.

We want you to succeed, not fail.

My approach is this: I want every fundamentally decent agency I work with in a pitch project to eventually get a win ‘with TrinityP3’ (this excludes arseholes, which I think is fair enough).

I want all agencies to be in a position to put their best foot forward at every step.

The best problem for me in a pitch is having a group of finalists who are all so good that the client has trouble choosing between them.

In that spirit, I am happy to share these experience-based thoughts with you – eight not-so-obvious mistakes that agencies often make in pitches. Have a read and see what you think.

1. The MD or CEO does too much talking.

Few things are more off-putting to most clients than an overbearing CEO. Finding the right balance, style and amount of contribution can be hard. To a client, an overbearing CEO can demonstrate anything from rhetoric over substance, an autocratic culture, or a lack of confidence in his or her own team.

2. The balance between demonstration of core requirements and other services is skewed.

Media agencies have developed creative capability. Advertising agencies now do data and media. The client gets that. But it is becoming more common for agencies to talk up or build in their diversified services in a pitch response to the point where it becomes confusing, irritating, or – worst of all – generates suspicion in the clients mind that if this agency is appointed, it will be off on a land-grab from day one.

3. The GAD or Business Director is not given enough of a role.

Continue reading “8 ‘Less Obvious’ Reasons Why Agencies Lose Pitches”

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Advertisers with Performance Problems Turn to Management Consultants

This post is by Michael Farmer, Chairman of TrinityP3 USA and author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter: an inside view of fee-cutting clients, profit-hungry owners and declining ad agencies, which won the Axiom Gold Business Book Award for the best marketing / advertising book of 2016

advertiser performance

“Watch out! They are coming!” reported The Drum when Accenture and Deloitte appeared on the pitch list for Nissan-Renault’s global account review. They are “spreading their tentacles, seduced by marketing services!

Accenture sees it another way: “CMOs are seeking our talents, not the other way around.”

Is consulting going to the mountain, or is the mountain coming to consulting?

Management consulting firms are not a recent invention. McKinsey was established in 1926, a year that marked “the invention of management consulting,” the company says.

The management consulting firms began to flourish in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when corporations first experienced serious performance problems due to the complexity of global operations; the excessive use of energy during the oil shock decades; competition from higher-quality, lower-cost Japanese manufacturers; problems integrating acquired new businesses during the M&A boom; problems developing and integrating management information systems, and so forth.

The Boston Consulting Group was founded in 1963; Bain & Company in 1973; Accenture in 1989, and Deloitte Consulting in 1995 (although the original Deloitte dates from 1845).

Each consulting firm had a clear specialty during the formative years. McKinsey specialised in reorganising companies into decentralised profit centers. BCG and Bain focused on corporate strategy; Accenture and Deloitte were expert in developing and integrating management information systems.

Since then, though, the consulting firms are converging as their practice areas overlap and their clients’ performance problems intensify.

What links the consulting firms into a coherent competitive threat is their focus and experience in solving high-level corporate performance problems for CEOs, CFOs, CIOs, profit-centre presidents and heads of procurement.

The typical consulting firm charges out its people at a multiple of 5.0x their salaries, higher than the ad agency multiple, which ranges from 2.2x to 2.5x. The high consulting fees can only be justified if improved results are the outcome. It takes high-level consulting relationships to solve high-level performance problems.

Most ad agencies work at a lower level with their clients and focus on creativity as their value-added — creativity that builds brands and engages consumers. The problem is, it isn’t working all that well today.
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Why providing consultancy with integrity is more important than ever

This post is by David Angell, General Manager of the fast growing Melbourne market and National Head of Media. David has extensive commercial and media experience gained through a fifteen year career in media agencies, which he uses to help drive optimal results for TrinityP3 clients.

Consultancy with Integrity

Consultants. They often get a bad rap, particularly in the marketing industry.

I work with many clients in a consultative capacity, across anything from bespoke vision or structural alignment projects, through contractual and remuneration assessment, to market pitches or agency selection work. I’ve also worked with many consultants in my agency days.

The majority of the clients we work with are pretty happy. I would like to say that the majority of agencies we’ve worked with are – well, at least not unhappy – with the way in which we handle them.

But we can’t ignore the broader negative perceptions surrounding the motives of consultants, the capability and contextual knowledge of consultants, the process and fairness of consultants.

The fact that the larger management consultancy groups such as Accenture are now setting up practices that directly compete with the same agencies they audit as part of their consultancy work does not make such perceptions any easier to combat.

There are always going to be bad experiences, things that go wrong, negative perceptions or people feeling sore about something. That’s OK. For me personally, someone can be hugely unhappy with something I’ve done as a consultant and I won’t mind – as long as, despite the unhappiness, that person can understand that at the end of the day, I’ve consulted with integrity.

For the record, here’s a framework of values I use to define Consultancy with Integrity.

Objectivity

Pretty obvious. But important. Objectivity means never working on a payment by results remuneration model or in any other way that generates significant conflict of interest. It means being willing to point things out to your own client, at individual level, that may not be welcome.

It means working to a project outcome or recommendation that offers mutual benefits to all sides, not just one side. It means trying to gain proper context from every angle of any operation. It means being honest. Continue reading “Why providing consultancy with integrity is more important than ever”

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Time to pitch your agency or not? And when it is the only answer

This post is by Anita Zanesco, a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Anita brings a unique blend of insights, creativity and understanding to the communications industry particularly in the areas of talent management, agency process and new business pitch management.

pitch your agency

That indeed is the question many marketers ask themselves when agencies aren’t performing.

Given one of our services at TrinityP3 is Pitch Consultancy, and I get paid to be a Pitch Consultant, one might think I would answer: “Pitch of course!” But alas, you would be mistaken to think I would say that without asking a few very pointed questions first.

The TrinityP3 view has always been that to pitch your agency should be a last resort after all other potential ways of resolving a situation have been addressed.  The grass is not always greener on the other side, in fact sometimes it’s a rather murky brown once the honeymoon period is over, and it’s only when a relationship has been truly decimated, that we would recommend a review and pitch.

So if the question is keeping you awake at night, here are some things to consider and some more questions to ask yourself before you spend a considerable amount of time and money on a pitch process.

1. Why is your agency not performing?

List the reasons you are unhappy and do that strange thing people in the communications industry sometimes forget about – talk to them. You may find all sorts of things that are easily and readily addressed.

They may not be getting the information they need from you in a detailed and timely fashion, creating delays and frustration at both ends; they may have been having staffing issues that are about to be resolved; there may be a personality clash that can be resolved by a simple change of team structure; there may be a differing perspective on creativity and the type of communications your brand requires and their agency delivers.

2. Do both teams have the right structure in place to deliver the marketing communications functions required?

Again, a fairly straightforward question but if the teams in place do not have the right experience, knowledge and capabilities it will result in inferior results.

3. Do you have the right agencies or too many agencies on your roster?

Continue reading “Time to pitch your agency or not? And when it is the only answer”

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Why advertisers should never accept a ‘sound-alike’ music track for advertising

This post is by Darren Woolley, Founder of TrinityP3With his background as analytical scientist and creative problem solver, Darren brings unique insights and learnings to the marketing process. He is considered a global thought leader on agency remuneration, search and selection and relationship optimisation.

The international scandal from New Zealand concerning the court case between the publisher of Eminem’s song Lose Yourself and the National Party of New Zealand reminds us why advertisers should be very careful when it comes to copyright, music rights and intellectual property.

 

During my career as a copywriter I witnessed on so many occasions situations that could easily have ended up in the same embarrassing court battle that the National Party of New Zealand is currently facing.

This is because many people in the industry and advertisers themselves believe that if they can’t afford the original music track then it is okay to commission a sound-alike track for often a fraction of the cost of the rights. But it isn’t. And if caught it will end up costing you significantly more.

Perhaps if the National Party and their agencies had only read our Top Ten on how to avoid this?

How does this happen

While not wanting to speculate on the trial happening in New Zealand, let me recount the steps of a very similar situation that occurred at an agency I worked at last century.

The agency had presented a campaign concept to the Government and to drive the action had used a well-known anthemed music track by an international band, knowing that the cost of licencing the track would be too expensive.

Being the Government the agency knew they would research the concepts and of course the agency concept won largely because of the popularity and power of the music track. The agency was appointed to the business and following rounds of rewrites of the concept to meet the Government requirements, the one thing that did not change was the music track on the original concept. That is until the final budget was presented.

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Retuning the Marketing ‘Orchestra’

This post is by Michael Farmer, Chairman of TrinityP3 USA and author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter: an inside view of fee-cutting clients, profit-hungry owners and declining ad agencies, which won the Axiom Gold Business Book Award for the best marketing / advertising book of 2016.

The marketing ‘orchestra’ needs to be reorganised and re-tuned. The orchestra players are highly skilled and totally dedicated. The problem is, they’re playing different scores, even if the music was written by the same composer. The first violins are playing a Bach fugue. The second violins are performing a Bach prelude. The cellos are holding their own with the Second Brandenburg concerto. The string bass players are improvising – Bach jazz-fusion.

And the conductor? Frustrated, he / she stops the playing. “Again, the Bach! From the top!”

Marketing’s performance, too, is less than stellar. Brand growth has been stagnant for the past decade, particularly for legacy brands. The portfolio of agencies has been increased, each agency “best in class” in its area of expertise — TV, radio, print, direct marketing, PR, events / sponsorship, website design, email marketing and social media – but there’s something missing in the way that the agencies play together, like the discordant Bach orchestra.

It doesn’t matter if you have the best players in the world — their playing needs to be coordinated.

One problem is the length of time that the orchestra plays together under the conductor. CMOs, who are blamed by CEOs for the lack of brand growth, turn over every 3-4 years, and their replacements tend to change some if not all the resident agencies.

Each CMO has a unique style, and it takes some time for CMOs to come to grips with the brand-growth problem and coordinate the marketing efforts accordingly. Often, CMOs are not in place long enough to make a difference. Continue reading “Retuning the Marketing ‘Orchestra’”

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Am I allowed to audit my agency?

This post is by Adrian Jenkins, Founder and Director of Financial Progression, a firm of Chartered Accountants that specialises in marketing contract compliance.

Audit my agency

Having read “The 105th thing on your to do list” you will now know what kind of audit you’re looking to conduct. So what’s the next step? Before you go out looking for an auditor, you need to check that you are actually ‘allowed’ to audit your agency and, if you are, what can and can’t be audited.

And so to find the contract

Your right to audit should be covered in the agency contract and should be fairly easy to find – look in your ‘Contracts’ folder and voilà, a beautifully filed copy of a fully signed contract between you and your agency will be sitting there waiting for you.

But if it’s not there – although you could have sworn that’s where you would have filed it – you need to find out who in the business does have a copy. And is it the right copy? The final copy? Is it the same final copy that the agency has? Do you have version 3.2 and they have version 3.1 in their files? Has it been signed by both parties?

This is fairly easy to miss – in all the euphoria (Marketing) /relief (Procurement) of appointing a new agency, this final hurdle tends to be left to just a couple of people in the business, whilst everyone else is looking at the shiny new toy they now can play with.

If you don’t have a signed copy of the contract, and nobody else in the business seems to have a signed copy, then you may ask yourself is the contract enforceable? Have you just found out that there is actually NO contract between you and the agency?

Don’t panic. In the eyes of the law, the draft contract is the basis of the commercial agreement between you and your agency, even though it hasn’t been signed. So whether you have the ideal scenario where you have a signed final copy of the contract, or not, then you have something to refer to.  If you have no contract at all, then you still have a contract with the agency, it’s just that it’s a verbal one.

It’s all in the small print

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Clients: You Are What You Brief

This post is by Stephan Argent, CEO of Argedia Group and a member of the Marketing FIRST Forum, the global consulting collective co-founded by TrinityP3

Agency Client Briefs

Poor client briefings are a source of immense frustration to both agencies and the clients who issue them. Agencies that aren’t briefed properly spend a huge amount of time trying to decipher or guess at what their clients really want, while clients end up disappointed, underwhelmed and frustrated by the agency’s seeming lack of insight and creativity.

And I hate to break it to you, but from what we’re hearing, there’s something of an epidemic of dismal briefings darkening agency meeting rooms and inboxes. In short, agencies have a beef with their client’s briefs.

So what’s going on?

Well, one agency put it this way:

You are what you brief. A lazy, soulless, or unfocused briefing undermines client credibility, will not motivate the agency and all too often is reflected in the work.

And this doesn’t appear to be an isolated complaint. Weak, poor – even absent – briefings are apparently commonplace. Poor briefings are typically rooted in one or more of the following flaws: Continue reading “Clients: You Are What You Brief”

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CMOs, Shareholder Value and the Decline of Marketing Risk-Taking

This post is by Michael Farmer, Chairman of TrinityP3 USA and author of Madison Avenue Manslaughter: an inside view of fee-cutting clients, profit-hungry owners and declining ad agencies, which won the Axiom Gold Business Book Award for the best marketing / advertising book of 2016.

Shareholder value and Marketing

You’d have to be older than a Millennial to remember a time when corporate CEOs were heavily involved in marketing decisions, like increased spend on media, the development of new Big Idea ads, the launching of new consumer products (rather than the spitting out of line extensions) and the formulation of strategies designed to outsmart competitors.

That was a time before “shareholder value” became the universal corporate objective — the value to be delivered to shareholders because of management’s ability to grow earnings, dividends and share price.

Accompanying the “shareholder value” concept in the 1990s and 2000s was an explosion of C-Suite salaries and compensation levels. By 2015, average pay for the top 200 US CEOs (who run companies with more than $1 billion in revenue) was $19.3 million. Astonishingly, 2015 was the first year in several years that no individual CEO earned more than $100 million.

The “shareholder value” compensation levels have not done much for company growth in recent years. The number of advertisers reporting difficulties in achieving growth targets now include P&G (CEO compensation = $18.3 m), American Express ($21.7 m), Bank of America ($13.7 m), McDonald’s ($7.9 m), General Mills ($8.9 m), Mondelez ($18.3 m), Coca-Cola ($14.6 m), PepsiCo ($22.2 m) Walmart ($19.4 m). It’s a long list of legacy branded companies that goes beyond those listed here.

There are many reasons for the decline in legacy brand growth rates: online disruption (Amazon, etc) the demographic shift from the super-consuming Baby Boomer Budweiser generation to the more conservative Millennial craft-beer generation, the over-supply of high-quality consumer durables in the U.S. economy, consumer uncertainty about the future. It’s a long list of causes.
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The 105th thing on your ‘to do’ list may be the most important…

This post is by Adrian Jenkins, Founder and Director of Financial Progression, a firm of Chartered Accountants that specialises in marketing contract compliance.

Marketing agency audit

So imagine the scenario: you’ve got a set marketing budget that seems to be squeezed year-on-year; new opportunities arise that need to be tested; old, well-trodden routes to market need to be sustained; constant evaluations need to be done to ensure you’re nimble and maximising the opportunities; and your parent company has just issued the (annual) email to say that it’s putting a stop on spending any uncommitted budget at the end of the month.

Sound familiar?

Why add more stress to your day?

Then there are the usual pressures of hitting lead targets, forecasting and fighting for budget for the following year. Throw in the long, onerous process of agency pitches every three or so years, why on earth would you want to burden yourself with a self-elected, marketing agency audit on top?

Are you mad?

No. You’re anything but.

A leaking budget

With budgets being stretched as much as they are, can you really afford to let any of it ‘leak away’ needlessly? And it’s not necessarily anything sinister or underhand that’s being done.

More often than not, it’s just an oversight that the reconciliation for a project hasn’t been carried out yet, that something has been charged to you which shouldn’t have because it sits outside the agreement, that the wrong hourly rate or commission rate may have been selected by accident etc etc. Whatever the reason, it’s worth spending a bit of time and a little bit of hard-earned budget to ensure you’re only paying for what’s been agreed and no more.

It’s hard enough reconciling invoices against estimates at the best of times, but do you ever have the time to dig any deeper to check the time sheets, the expenses or even the third-party production, media and even old-fashioned print costs? I suspect not. An estimate is received, a PO is raised, an invoice is paid, the three match and voila, job done.

Catch the drips

Continue reading “The 105th thing on your ‘to do’ list may be the most important…”

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