The pitch: Is there a better way to choose a creative agency?

Astronaut Alan Shepherd once mused: “It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a contract.”

While creative agencies don’t quite take people’s lives into their hands, they do play a crucial role in the survival and prosperity of companies. After all, a great brand, effective marketing communications and strong digital infrastructure are the lifeblood of business development.

Choosing an agency is, therefore, a serious business. Get it right and you’re a hero, get it wrong, and there’s major business and possibly career-changing ramifications. As a consequence, it’s only natural that you’d want to scrutinise the ability and expertise of your potential partners.

But while navigating the schedules and legalese of a flurry of RFPs recently, we were pained to see how many organisations favour the old-fangled, cookie-cutter approach to procurement, once designed to buy building materials and stationery supplies.

These antiquated, box-ticking exercises are not fit for choosing a creative agency. Here’s a few reasons why:

  • They benefit agencies with time on their hands. Beware the agency that’s waiting for the phone to ring!
  • They favour agencies (typically, large ones) that have dedicated pitch teams, who, once the ink is dried on the contract, you’ll never see again.
  • They don’t provide a reflection of performance in a real-life environment. Why would you make a long-term commitment without really seeing an agency in action?

In 2017, we think there’s a better way of deciding who to trust your brand with. Here’s my pitch…

Before choosing a new agency, why not try them on a small, real-life project before signing a long-term contract?

I met with a prospective client last week, who, rather than asking agencies to remotely respond to an RFP, made the somewhat revolutionary decision to simply meet up in order to review our credentials and see the whites of our eyes.

It was a move that made me reflect on our longest-standing relationships. As I did, it occurred to me that all but one of them were won and retained on the merits of chemistry and proven ability – not from an impersonal, procurement-led RFP. Here’s just a few examples:

  • A referral from a staff member led to a project, which in turn led to another project and ultimately evolved into a four-year retained relationship to produce all brand communications.
  • A project to redesign a client’s stationery, which led to bigger design projects and ultimately to developing several new brands and a number of websites.
  • A brief to write a sales letter led to the redesign of a suite of marketing collateral before snowballing into a retainer to handle all creative communications (ousting 2 international networked agencies in the process).

So, next time you’re on the lookout for an agency, try them on a real-life project before making a long-term commitment. At the very least, focus on the following indicators of a successful partnership, they’ll tell you more than any traditional tender process:

  • Check out the credentials: Be open-minded, good work is good work whether it’s in your sector or not.
  • Meet the team: What’s the chemistry like with the people you’ll work with?
  • Visit the office: What’s the atmosphere like? Happy agencies produce good work. Unhappy agencies produce high staff turnover.
  • Meet the directors: Are they present? Will you have access to them?
  • Speak to clients (and actually speak to them): In 20 years of supplying client references for RFPs, I can’t think of one that has ever been contacted. True story.

Why not trial Omnia on your next project? You won’t be disappointed, and our clients will happily tell you so. Get in touch with Gareth Williams

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