What happens when the best agencies are no longer interested in pitching for your business?

Recently we have read reports from the CEO of WPP, Sir Martin Sorell and even our own Executive Chairman, Michael Farmer, talking about the almost irrational motivation of agencies to pitch for and win business at any cost. Certainly, with so many agencies in the market, you would think there is no shortage of candidates to pitch for an advertisers business. But the fact is that not all agencies are equal, yes, some are more equal, or perhaps more desirable than others. In any market there are a handful of agencies that are considered outstanding and then there are the others and behind them the ‘also-rans’. Continue reading

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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

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How TrinityP3 helps measure the performance of marketing – 3 case studies

After more than 15 years of downward pressure on marketing costs, the majority of traditional businesses are struggling to deliver growth and yet marketing provides one of the most successful drivers of business growth and performance when properly invested and measured against performance. The problem is that in many organisations marketing is treated as a cost of business with little or no focus on the return on that marketing investment. No wonder the strategy of cost cutting to profit has had such a major impact on marketing and subsequently the marketing agencies and suppliers. Continue reading

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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

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Can management consultants teach ‘value’ to the advertising agencies?

It is interesting to see how the advertising industry has reacted to the recent acquisition play of the management consultant firms like Accenture and PWC. Some people embrace the trend while others are sceptical as to the efficacy of the strategy. Will Accenture be able to leverage the value of their investment in Karmarama and Monkeys on opposite sides of the world? Or will what is seen as fundamental cultural differences cause it to fail? Time will tell. Continue reading

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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

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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

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How TrinityP3 is helping optimise marketing performance through technology – 3 case studies

Technology platforms, both martech and adtech, provide marketers with the opportunity to be more effective and efficient in their marketing. But technology is said to be moving at click speed and the investment is significant. It is important when investing in marketing technology solutions that the marketer has defined objectives and has a clear view of what success looks like. But, more than this, it is important to take into consideration the current processes that the technology is intended to support and the cultural appetite for change.

We have been involved in helping companies select new technology platforms and tender for new vendors, but we have also worked with organisations that have legacy systems and platforms that are under-performing or not performing at all, and have provided a diagnosis and options for consideration. Also, we have reviewed our clients’ current technology stack to identify optimisation opportunities and assess the organisation’s technology transformation. Each time we bring a totally independent and expert perspective to the process. Here are three case studies of the work we have undertaken providing solutions to marketers’ technology challenges. Continue reading

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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

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Managing Marketing: The importance and the difference in marketing to women

Kylie Rogers, Managing Director of Mamamia Women’s Network, and Lauren Joyce, Head of Broad, their strategic consultancy, talk with Darren on how women are driving commerce today, and why marketers may be missing out on this dominant audience by not marketing specifically to them in the way they want to be engaged.
Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I’m here at the Mamma Mia Women’s Network with Kylie Rogers, Managing Director and Lauren Joyce, who’s Head of Broad, which is the strategic consultancy here at Mamamia. Welcome.

Kylie:

Thank you so much for having us, Darren.

Darren:

In actual fact, I should be saying thank you for having me because coming here to Mamamia, as soon as the lift doors open and I saw all of the pictures on the wall and all of the people and the energy I could tell that this was a very different place to work.

Kylie:

I appreciate your saying that. Sometimes in the furore of your working week you forget the energy that really does exist in this place; it’s very progressive. It’s almost tangible.

Darren:

It’s palpable when the doors open. I think that’s why I walked in a bit confused; it was like being hit with this energy and noise. There are workplaces where there are people screaming but it was just this energy that is happening here. It was very exciting. Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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Take the Pledge! End Madison Avenue’s Manslaughter!

Madison Avenue’s self-destructive practices need to come to an end!  In the wake of a decade or more of marketing cost reductions, CMOs have lost credibility and power; procurement departments have confused benchmarking with marketing, and demoralised agencies have seen their capabilities severely compromised through downsizing, juniorising, and Scope of Work inflation. Cost reduction programs have run their course. They were never a credible substitute for brand growth as a way of delivering shareholder value. Continue reading

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Why performance based payments need to be an incentive not a disincentive

How do you create high-performance teams? Well if you look at what often passes as performance based compensation, you would think it is about taking money away from the agency before then setting an unreasonable and unrealistic performance metric, and then asking the agency to work at getting their money back. Talk about all stick and no carrot. Is it any wonder that so many marketers report that their agency performance remuneration efforts failed? Let’s be honest for a minute and admit that most of these performance models were really about reducing the agency fee and had very little to do with truly wanting to encourage performance. The technique would be applied usually as a way to get the agency to reduce their overall fee by 10% to 15% by placing it ‘at risk’ for an opportunity of earning back perhaps a maximum of 20%.  Continue reading

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