Deutsch Addresses 4A’s on Agency Practices

NEW YORK An agency that has a brand identity, that stands for something in a marketing services field awash with so-called client solutions and one that foregoes “stupid agency tricks” is more likely to be successful in procuring new business.

So said Donny Deutsch, CEO of Interpublic Group’s Deutch, on Monday during his keynote address at a two-day new-business summit sponsored by the American Association of Advertising Agencies at New York’s Millennium Hotel.

If clients can’t formulate a brand image of a prospective agency, then the agency and its services aren’t likely to be distinguishable from its competitor shops, and therefore give clients anything special, Deutsch told the audience of new-business leaders from around the country.

“Don’t chase everything,” is another of his credos. Agencies spend too many resources in both staff and money going after reviews in which the client and agency may not ultimately be a good fit. Beware of reviews in which the number of agencies is large and the variation among their specialties is wide, Deutsch said. Such reviews indicate that “the consultant and the client don’t really know what they want.”

Once a shop gets into a pitch, it should avoid corny gimmicks, or what Deutsch called “stupid agency tricks,” in an attempt to strike a rapport with the client. “I’m not putting on an apron for a pitch,” Deutsch said to knowing laughter among the approximately 500 attendees. “I’m not dressing up as a donut. And you all know what I mean.”

In addition, don’t compromise on price for your services, Deutsch admonished, and stay away from pitches where in the very first meeting it isn’t clear what the compensation will be. “Have a little self-esteem,” Deutsch urged the industry. “I wouldn’t hire an account person or a creative and say ‘Okay, work for a month and we’ll figure it out at the end.'”

Anyone who goes forward in a pitch without having an idea about compensation after the very first meeting “is a fool,” he added.

Deutsch was the first speaker in a day-long session of panels that included discussions on trends, selling integrated services, how to get a prospective client’s attention, and winning new business in PR and branding agencies.

In a panel discussion about selling integration to clients, agency and client executives underscored the need for integrated marketing efforts but stressed that they should be strategically based and coordinated by a single person on the agency side.

“I want to manage the process and I want the agency to manage the interface” between marketing services companies, said Stewart McHie, global brand manager at ExxonMobil.

Agencies have talked about integration for decades but the practice has fallen short of the promise, said Steve Harty, former president of Omnicom Group’s Merkley Newman Harty & Partners and managing director of Plus, a turn-key brand consultancy attached to Interpublic Group’s Lowe. What’s lacking are documented procedures and a consensus about finances and revenue sharing, Harty said.

On the issue of prospecting clients, a panel of client marketing executives offered a littany of dos and don’ts. Panelists included IBM’s Marianne Caponetta and Solomon Smith Barney’s Bret Sanford-Chung. The session was moderated by Joanne Davis of Joanne Davis Consulting in New York. The client executives stressed that agencies should be respectful and approach clients with a point of view about their businesses. Cold calls, fancy mailings and gimmicks are no substitute for demonstrating an understanding of a client’s business, they said.

The conference continues through Tuesday.