'It's not just about pitching to potential clients anymore,' commented an agency exec who declined to be named. 'Agencies have to treat consultants like prospects.'
A common agency complaint is that many of the newer consultants have devised questionnaires or requests for agencies that are needlessly involved and time-consuming. 'It's the newer consultants doing the fancy stuff,' lamented one agency president.
Rising client interest in consultants may be causing their ranks to swell. Bob Lundin, president of Jones-Lundin, an established and respected Chicago-based consultant, said the number of clients seeking help has increased beyond their expected growth rates.
'I'm sensing an impetuousness out there,' Lundin said. 'With corporate downsizing there are companies doing the same work with fewer heads to do it. If a relationship goes bad, clients don't always have the time to analyze the 'whys.' '
While agencies understand some of the reasons clients might use consultants, many feel frustrated by long questionnaires, lack of contact with the clients, inexperienced consultants that seem to want to pad databases, and unreasonable requests.
'Sure, when you put another barrier between the client and agency you lose some chemistry, but it's not the consultant's fault,' said Mike Gray, vp/director of new business development at Martin/Williams Advertising, Minneapolis. 'But the reality is that it's a feeding frenzy out there. Clients get inundated with proposals and they still have a business to run.'
When Huffy Bicycle Co. decided earlier this year to re-evaluate its 10-year relationship with Lois U.S.A./Chicago, David Goubeaux, Huffy manager of marketing and licensing, realized he needed professional help to determine what to expect from an agency and what to look for in a review situation. Huffy retained Rojek Marketing Group, a relatively new consultant based in Cleveland. Rojek has been known to send out 40-plus page questionnaires and ask agencies to sort a stack of cards in the attempt to match agencies and clients.
'I thought we'd give them our parameters and they'd plug them into a computer and give us a list candidates,' Goubeaux said. 'What they did for us was help us determine what we should expect from an agency, what to question and how to monitor the relationship on an ongoing basis in addition to the actual running of the review.'
Goubeaux said Huffy was concerned with running the review professional and didn't want to waste the wrong agencies' time. He said between Rojek's 'card sort' and the 'Request for Proposal,' Huffy was able to target its search.
Despite the measured logic of questionnaires, most agency execs said they often fare better when they simply meet with prospective clients.
'I'd much rather meet the people and have them think about your agency and you think about their business than waste time with a lot of paper,' said Ian Miller, Tatham Euro RSCG/Chicago president. 'There's no substitute for meeting people.'
'We do just fine when there is no consultant involved,' said another top executive at a mid-sized Chicago agency. 'We don't have a reel full of recognizable national spots, but we have done some great, successful work for clients. So, when people meet us and talk to us that comes through. It doesn't come through answers to standard questionnaires.'
Lundin acknowledges such frustrations, but said he believes just as strongly in the 'chemistry' factor and promotes it with clients J-L works with. The company also limits questionnaires to what Lundin calls 'snapshots' to update information. A good consultant will know the agencies, he said, and shouldn't need to send out lengthy questionnaires every time.
'We're interested in creating marriages that last; every good consultant wants that,' said Lundin.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)