Do You Really, Truly Want to Transform Your Agency?

Are you tired of being shoved around by clients?  Worried about your fees?  Missing your budgets?  Is your creativity undervalued?  Are your best people quitting for better jobs?  Do benchmarkers set your fees? Do you remember the good old days, when you trod the gilded C-Suite corridors?  When you were treated with respect?  When your work was award-winning and it really mattered?  When what you did made a difference?  Friend, you need a transformation.  A real transformation. Continue reading

Posted in agency remuneration / compensation, agency solutions, interesting observations, marketing process optimisation | Comments Off on Do You Really, Truly Want to Transform Your Agency?

Managing Marketing: Agencies, consultants, mergers and acquisitions

Ben Tolley, Partner at Clarity talks with Darren on the industry mergers and acquisitions and the increased activity of the consulting firms in this category and not just the challenges but the benefits to the advertisers when creativity and management strategy comes together in the resulting entities including the possibility that soon it may be a holding company that is acquired. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, industry news & trends, Podcasts | Comments Off on Managing Marketing: Agencies, consultants, mergers and acquisitions

Ad Industry’s Talent Crisis is a Symptom, Not a Disease

ANA was brave to issue a “scathing report” (per AdAge) on the lack of talent in the advertising industry.  Certain outsiders were fingered as contributing to the talent problem: universities that “aren’t keeping pace with the industry’s changing needs” and consultancies and tech giants that are offering “more generous salaries and perks.”  (Shame on them!) On top of this, Millennials remain an enigma — why aren’t they more eager to enter the industry?  What ANA did not describe were the day-to-day operations of advertisers and agencies that have turned the advertising working environment into a relatively unattractive one for job-seeking graduates, a trend that has been in swing and gaining momentum for the past 15 years.  Continue reading

Posted in agency remuneration / compensation, agency solutions, industry news & trends, interesting observations | Comments Off on Ad Industry’s Talent Crisis is a Symptom, Not a Disease

Let’s Hear It for Madison Avenue’s Makeover!

Social media has turned us, I regret to say, into relentless, dour critics. In the advertising industry, every misstep is pounced on and amplified. Dove, Pepsi, McDonald’s and their agencies are pilloried for trying and failing. Misjudgments, mistakes and tone-deaf efforts are treated as capital crimes.  I’m as guilty as anyone, having written a long critique of ad agency management in my recent book, Madison Avenue Manslaughter, and in writing these weekly pieces. Whatever my (and our) good intentions might be, non-stop criticism is soul-destroying. It makes us tiresome and grumpy.  At a certain point in time, we need a shift of focus, from the negative to the positive — from Madison Avenue’s Manslaughter to Madison Avenue’s Makeover. Continue reading

Posted in agency search & selection, agency solutions, industry news & trends, interesting observations, marketing process optimisation | Comments Off on Let’s Hear It for Madison Avenue’s Makeover!

Why working / non-working ratios no longer work for advertising

As an industry we love our terms. Usually they are TLA (Three Letter Acronyms) like ATL, BTL and TTL. Or RFP, RFT and RFIs. And marketing technology digital buzz words are making this even crazier.

But there is a concept which has recently made a prominent return to the industry and yet it is totally outdated and no longer relevant. That is Working and Non-Working Spend. The reason for the sudden resurgence is a combination of management consultants who are pushing Zero Based Budgeting, not so much to drive marketing performance and return on investment, but more as a marketing investment framework to reduce the marketing investment and therefore budget.

The second source is the increased activity in investments in traditional consumer package goods brand companies by private equity and venture capital, and their use of the term to inform the market that they have magically discovered the investment strategy to turn the flagging performance of these entities around by simply reducing non-working spend and improving the working to non-working ratio.

In fact, as I write this, it seems so self-evident that you wonder why the schmucks that owned the business before it was bought by these clever investors had not done this already. Why wouldn’t you reduce non-working spend. After all, if it is non-working why are you spending anything on it anyway? Continue reading

Posted in agency remuneration / compensation, agency solutions, industry news & trends, marketing process optimisation, marketing procurement, return on investment | Comments Off on Why working / non-working ratios no longer work for advertising

The Other Opioid Epidemic: The (Brief) High from Chasing New Business

The agency CEO asked me not to use his name.  He wanted to talk privately over breakfast.  “You know, this new business thing is getting to be a problem, he said.  “We’re addicted to falling in love with our next new client, and the one after that and the one after that.  They will solve all our problems.  We’ll do great award-winning work, be well paid, and loved in return … and all the industry crap will disappear.  We’ll pour our heart and soul into winning them.  They’re coy; both flirtatious and distant, making us want them even more.  We’re no better than lovesick teenagers.  And when it goes our way, and we get together and have a wonderful first year, it’s true love … before it turns to crap.  We hate the crap.  We would rather be in love.  That’s why we love new clients and everything it takes to win them.”

Are agency-client relationships becoming loveless marriages that end up on the rocks?  Do the divorced partners, free of the ties that bind, become serial daters, falling in and out of love so often that “commitment” sounds boring and dated — something that was done by their parents in another creative era?  If brands are the children of agency-client relationships, what will happen to them as they’re shuttled from one relationship to another? Will they grow and make positive contributions?  Or, more likely, will they underperform (as they are today)? Continue reading

Posted in agency search & selection, agency solutions, customer relationship management, green marketing & sustainability, interesting observations, strategic management | Comments Off on The Other Opioid Epidemic: The (Brief) High from Chasing New Business

Don’t Count Out the Holding Companies – At Least Not Yet

The latest holding company news, gleefully reported in the trade press, shows a shortfall in WPP’s first half 2017 growth rates, with forecasts of lower long-term growth in coming years.  WPP’s share price took a dive.  Campaign U.S. headlined “Sorrell under pressure to streamline WPP as FMCG clients cut back on marketing.”  Panic!  WPP is not the only holding company affected by advertiser spend cutbacks, but Sir Martin is highly visible, and he takes most of the industry flack.  How concerned should investors be?  Don’t count out the holding companies yet.  They have not played all the potential cards in their hands.

Holding companies have been visibly with us for the past 30 years, and during that time they have pursued Three Big Growth Strategies:

1) Acquiring marketing communications and research companies;
2) Setting and enforcing aggressive portfolio company budgets, requiring agency revenue and margin growth through business development, cost reductions, and other efficiencies; and
3) Selling “holding company relationships” to give clients a broad range of agency services across media disciplines – required because their individual agencies did not integrate across disciplines.

There are other holding company initiatives, of course, like providing back-office services for portfolio companies (travel, accounting, IT, etc.) but the Three Big Growth Strategies have dominated their activities. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, industry news & trends, marketing procurement, return on investment, strategic management | Comments Off on Don’t Count Out the Holding Companies – At Least Not Yet

7 Questions Everyone On Your Marketing Team Should Be Able To Answer

When it comes to setting expectations with your agency(s) – and your marketing team – there are some ‘price-of-entry’ questions everyone should be able to wrap their head around. None are complex, but they are the bedrock of creating harmonious client/agency relationships and ensuring everyone is focused and aligned.

And even if you think your teams are completely clear and in sync with their respective roles and responsibilities, some of the answers (or lack thereof) might surprise you. So, why not test them out? Here is what we believe are the top 7 questions everyone on your business should be able to answer:

What are our expectations?

Whether asked from an individual or corporate perspective, expectations of – and between – everyone should be the starting point. The sting in the tail of this question is that if people can’t answer it, chances are you’ve not been clear or never articulated expectations to begin with – so if there’s a worrying silence after asking it, perhaps it’s an opportunity to bring teams together and let them know. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, interesting observations, marketing process optimisation, strategic management | Comments Off on 7 Questions Everyone On Your Marketing Team Should Be Able To Answer

Is your TV production process moving forward or stuck in the old ways?

Recently I received an email from an “Institute” claiming that they were researching the current state of the global TVC production industry.

They said that they had read several of my posts on the TrinityP3 site and considered me to be an expert on the international TVC production industry. Of course, I was extremely flattered to be labeled as an industry expert. The email then went on to propose that I forward my insights to them so that they could incorporate them into their “white paper” on the global production industry as it now stands.

It did not take long for the penny to drop (having a healthy cynicism is one of the most important traits a production expert should have). Of course the “Institute” would use my insights and re-brand them as their own, passing themselves off as industry experts and perhaps even make an income from their new-found expertise without doing the hard yards, many years of hands-on experience and constant monitoring of the industry. So I declined their kind invitation to share my specialist knowledge with them, instead to continue to share it here with you.

The state of the television production industry

But their invitation did make me think that the current state of the TVC production industry is one of confusion, mistrust, and fear, in fact this could be said about the advertising industry in general. I will keep my generalisations to TV production and television as an advertising media.

This confusion is partly driven by the impact of technology on the advertising industry and particularly the production industry. The cost of entry into the production arena has dropped as digital technology has made production equipment and the process more cost-effective. In fact, it is so cost-effective that many companies, and particularly their marketing departments, are building video production capabilities in-house to cost-effectively produce the huge amounts of video content many marketers need for their content marketing.

So back in the early days of television onward, if you wanted to advertise on TV you went to an advertising agency and they took care of everything to do with TV advertising, from script to on-air scheduling and everything in between. But now things have changed.

Now an advertiser has a multitude of options: you can buy each and every agency service individually from any number of specialist service providers, you can bring the whole production process in-house and contract the experts you need when you need them or you can still leave it all up to the agency. The reality is that advertisers are now tailoring their production models to what suits them and their needs. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, television & electronic production | Comments Off on Is your TV production process moving forward or stuck in the old ways?

Engagement Agreements to align expectations and performance – 3 case studies

Just as marketing is increasingly complex, so the relationships between marketers and their various agencies are increasingly complex and difficult to manage. Many of the past practices, both formal and informal, struggle to keep pace with the changes and complexity. Over the past decade and more we have seen many marketers still relying on the assumption that the relationship they have will their agencies will naturally manage to work itself out. At the same time, we have witnessed an increase in complaints from marketers over the fact that their agencies struggle to work or collaborate together.

We have also witnessed an increase in agency contracts that appear to address this issue, with the inclusion of service level agreement (SLAs) and set up key performance indicators (KPIs). The trouble is that firstly, these are designed for the delivery of services, but do not easily define the interdependent relationship that exists between marketers and their agencies or between the agencies working with the marketer. Secondly, the agency contract, once signed, is often filed and not looked at again until an issue arises or the marketers are planning to take the relationship to the market. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, case studies, interesting observations, marketing process optimisation | Comments Off on Engagement Agreements to align expectations and performance – 3 case studies

What Happens When Ad Agency Creative Magic Fails?

Ad agency creativity was pure magic in the traditional days of Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy.  Advertised brands flourished and grew, and iconic brands like Tide, Budweiser, McDonald’s, Visa, Chevrolet, American Express and others became genuine Lovemarks, earning countless millions for their brand owners.

Agency creativity has been much less magical in recent years with the advent of digital and social media, “content” instead of ads, and the widespread introduction of technology and e-commerce to the changing demographic mix of consumers, with fickle Millennials now the dominant segment.  Iconic brands are dead in the water, marketing spend is shrinking, and CMO job tenure is short and uncertain.  The magic of creativity disappeared along the way. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, industry news & trends, interesting observations, social media & digital marketing | Comments Off on What Happens When Ad Agency Creative Magic Fails?

How To Improve Briefings To Your Agencies

We often hear complaints about weak marketer-side briefings – both from agencies who receive them and (surprisingly enough) from marketers who admit their briefings aren’t as good as they could be. Even more surprising perhaps is that clients are forthcoming about acknowledging they’re ‘part of the problem’. What’s perplexing perhaps is that when asked, ‘why don’t you fix your briefing process?’ they ask, ‘sure, but how…?’. For anyone asking, we run training workshops for marketers looking to strengthen their internal resources and create stronger working relationships with their agencies, from providing feedback to agencies, to evaluating creative and yes how to write better briefings. But for the purposes of this post, here are a few questions worth asking to help set your teams up for success and writing better briefings: Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, interesting observations, strategic management | Comments Off on How To Improve Briefings To Your Agencies

When “Best Practices” are Worst Practices

Did you hear about the infamous Army briefing during the Vietnam War? “We had to destroy Ben Tre in order to save it.” The briefing referred to a terrible act, the annihilation of a Vietnamese village by overwhelming American firepower, carried out during a terrible war that was lost in any case. So it goes when tactics, rather than strategies dominate a conflict. Less gruesome, but relevant is the bungled tactical war between advertisers and agencies. Well-meaning tactical “best practices,” used extensively and nearly universally by marketing procurement departments, are worst practices that destroy agency capabilities and annihilate partnerships. Unfortunately, agencies are equally complicit in their destruction.

The Relationship War began, like many wars, with a skirmish and a few opening shots. In the ’90’s, media commissions were giving way to labor-based fees, and advertisers were clueless about agency headcounts, salaries, overhead rates, and profit margins (let’s leave aside the stupidity of adopting this labor-based approach). Advertisers asked their agencies to provide the necessary cost details. Agencies demurred, offended by the request, failing to recognize that procurement folks had been used to knowing intimate details from their manufacturing and distribution suppliers, and they expected the same transparency from their marketing communications suppliers. The agency refusal to cooperate infuriated procurement. As one exasperated executive told me in 2003, “Who the hell do they think they are, anyway? A bunch of prima donnas. I’m going to whack their fees by 10% — maybe that will send them a message.” Agency fee cutting became procurement’s raison d’être, and over the decades fee-cutting took on many sophisticated forms: Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, customer relationship management, industry news & trends, interesting observations, strategic management | Comments Off on When “Best Practices” are Worst Practices

Six reasons why you may have many more agencies and suppliers than you need

We provide a very popular solution called Agency Roster Alignment where we analyse and map the current roster against the advertiser’s strategic needs, spend and satisfaction with the incumbents. Some of the really common responses when we report back on the current rosters is, first, many are surprised at the number of agencies and marketing vendors on the roster and, second, how they could have ended up in this situation with so many agencies and suppliers. Let me deal with the first response and then expand on the second in the observation points below.

First off, when we take about rosters we are not simply talking about the major agencies such as creative, media and digital, plus perhaps a PR company, a design studio, and that sales promotion firm you use occasionally. We are talking about all of the agencies, suppliers and vendors that you spend your budget with, including market research firms, event companies, mail houses, technology solutions providers, and everyone in between.

Just as marketing has become more complex, the number of vendors, agencies and suppliers has grown too. But the fact is there are some very solid reasons as to why you may have more agencies and suppliers than you need. And that is not a good thing, as each extra one on your roster is consuming time and money by just being there. Continue reading

Posted in agency solutions, interesting observations, marketing process optimisation, marketing procurement, return on investment, strategic management | Comments Off on Six reasons why you may have many more agencies and suppliers than you need

17 ways advertisers can make their advertising production more transparent

In light of the recent ANA Production Transparency Report in the US, and the growing trend for the ‘Big 6’ Networks to establish separate brands for production services, here is a list of key considerations for your current agency contracts. TrinityP3 believes terms and conditions should be transparent, and not support hidden agendas, especially where an agency may engage a related production supplier. So here are our seventeen areas or principles when reviewing your agency and production contracts:

Review your agency contracts regularly – The contract should contain transparent terms, which are clearly understood by both parties, and reviewed at least every third-year due to technological advancements and process efficiency within industry practices. Do you know exactly what the terms and conditions are of your agreement? If not, you should, transparency is paramount.

Be clear on the type of relationship your contract defines

Contracts are generally one of two formats. This is either one of Principal and Agent, or alternatively Principal and Contractor. Where the Agency is acting as an Agent, the Agency has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interests of the client, and procure production at the best possible price. However, where the contract engages the agency as a Principal and Independent Contractor, often terms allow for the agency to mark-up or provide less disclosure and transparency over the sourcing of external production services.

There has been a recent shift towards these agreements where the Agency acts as the Principal with production suppliers, to limit the ‘risk’ of audit and potential compensation in the case of a breach of terms of the agreement. The Agency engages suppliers, which are often deemed external 3rd parties (although often related), which are not subject to the terms and conditions of any Master Services Agreement.

Investigate contracting third party production companies directly

A direct Production Services Agreement with the related 3rd party production house is always recommended, which should include the same transparent terms as the Agency agreement, and especially include the right to audit. This supports the move away from ‘fixed price’ and ‘non-auditable’ external production agreements, which are common within the industry. Continue reading

Posted in agency remuneration / compensation, agency solutions, industry news & trends, marketing process optimisation, marketing procurement, television & electronic production | Comments Off on 17 ways advertisers can make their advertising production more transparent