One of the main stories of 2017 has been the increased focus on the brand-agency relationship. As brands look to increase transparency and agencies set out to provide the level of insight requested, it is a focus that will likely continue into the new year.

This new focus means that advertisers are held to a higher level of accountability, so they need to be confident that their media agency partners can deliver on their promises; whether that’s strategic, financial, service-related, or a combination of a few. To do this, brands across the world have begun the process of reviewing their media agency relationships. As a result, brand marketers are taking on the ever-increasing responsibility of launching a review.

A media agency review can result in improved transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness and taking a step back to review the relationship can help you determine if the results and efforts are in line with your business objectives. However, conducting a review can be complicated and may ruffle feathers if not communicated in a way that shows your desire to strengthen your relationship, not scrutinize it. Here are seven points to consider during your media agency review process:

  1. Determine a clear objective. Utilize a sounding board to determine exactly what you are looking for in your agency and what objectives are most important to you as a business. Asking the right questions during a review will help you accurately assess the capability of the agency and will allow you to make a decision based on the alignment of the agency against your most important business objectives.
  2. Set realistic expectations. This includes utilizing a reasonable timeline. Be sure to set one that’s not so short that it’s an impossible task but also not so long that excessive rounds and resources are required.
  3. Ensure stakeholder alignment. Nowadays, the agency relationship transcends beyond just the marketing department so it is important to make sure key leaders are tuned in and have the chance to understand the opportunity and impact for their own objectives. This will vary across organizations but could include; marketing & procurement, media & brand marketing, or global & local client teams.
  4. Respect the effort. The agency will spend hundreds of man-hours focusing on your business and the relationship. According to a study by Cubeyou, the average amount of work that goes into each proposal in the U.S. is 100-150 hours and costs approximately $15,000 with creative and strategic planning.
  5. Evaluate team chemistry. The ‘chemistry factor’ can be easily overlooked and is frequently an undervalued factor when it comes to an agency relationship. However, the chemistry between a media agency and your team should not be taken for granted. Don’t forget that you will be working side by side, in many cases, on a daily basis with the media agency team you select. Fellow stakeholders who are more focused on the advanced tech and competitive pricing guarantees that the agencies offer can often overlook this critical variable. Be sure to get a feel for the media agencies culture and consider it as important as the strategy and pricing components for evaluation.
  6. Review your contract carefully. The resulting contract framework is just as important as the pitch process itself. Contract language should provide full transparency for the advertiser including a right to audit financials and media and complete ownership of the data your company produces. The advertiser is responsible for more active stewardship of their media investments and fair compensation of their agency partners. For more, read our Media Transparency Guidelines.
  7. Seek out expert advice. When it comes to an agency review, it is extremely helpful to have an advisor in the room to help lead the review process. Enlisting help from someone with real expertise can help in directing the conversation proficiently, decrease the time to value, and overall give guidance on what is practical and what you should push for from your agency. If this expertise is something that you or your team may lack, consider hiring an advisor.

The Final Word

An agency review can be complex and time-consuming, but ultimately will provide long-term success for your business. It’s vital that the advertiser sets clear goals, is realistic about their objectives, and is prepared to give the agency a genuine opportunity to be a partner in their success. When this is accomplished, there’s a much better chance of maintaining a long and productive relationship.

While the relationship between advertisers and media agencies is evolving, advertisers are taking on the responsibility of managing the relationship to gain clarity across investments – and that’s exactly what is going to strengthen the future of the industry. For more tips and information, check out our webinar: “From RFP to Contract, How to Review Your Agency