ART & COMMERCE: Finders Keepers

Ten rules for choosing an agency in the next century
As part of our client searches, Richard Roth Associates looks at hundreds of agencies a year. The right choice always depends on which shop best matches the client’s specific needs. While needs vary by assignment, generalized credentials are still useful for identifying high-quality candidates. But clearly, times have changed. Branding has changed. Media has changed. Some agencies have kept pace with change-even led the way-and some have not.
Marketers can no longer locate monolithic chunks of humanity glued to their TV sets. Consumers are fragmented into groups whose needs, attitudes and behavior overlap with other small groups in constantly changing patterns. In many instances, finding and tracking a brand’s target is beyond the power or sample size of traditional syndicated research. In this environment, the bar for relevant creativity is raised even higher. What’s an advertiser to do? Pick an agency that scores high on these 10 keys:
€ It understands audience fragmentation. Audiences are no longer couch potatoes; they are mobile and consume media in smaller and more varied venues. Your agency needs to know how to track your target consumer in any of the multitude of places they live, visit or consume.
€ It knows how to turn information into intelligence. To compete in a fragmented marketplace, your agency needs to offer interfaced research and analytical tools, which can turn consumer data into competitively superior marketing insight.
€ It’s brand-centric. Breakthrough branding ideas are more vital than ever, but only if they provide leverage for a sound marketing strategy. Look for a real-time track record of success for other clients with similar needs.
€ It can orchestrate the integration of all brand messaging, wherever it occurs. The brand must employ diverse delivery vehicles, but the messages must reinforce a single brand identity. The agency must be able to make this work-seamlessly.
€ It can offer the direct involvement of talented senior management people on your business, combined with high-caliber, day-to-day individuals who are real contributors, not just messengers. The ad industry has not invested in its people, except at the highest levels. Make sure you get your share of the good ones.
€ It understands the Internet. Your agency must be able to harness the Web on behalf of your brand.
€ It’s administratively buttoned up, with an organizational structure that permits the agency to move at lightning speed.
€ It has a philosophy that produces solutions driven by the brand’s marketing needs, not the agency’s agenda or operating costs.
€ It’s committed to listening to-and learning from-you.
€ It meets your budget.
How do these requirements differ from the specs of the ’80s or ’90s? You need all of this now. Creating the mosaic that will drive a brand forward requires the agency to integrate information in creatively relevant and strategically insightful ways.
The world is in “fast forward” and so must be your agency.
Richard J. Roth is president of Richard Roth Associates, a Chappaqua, N.Y.-based advertising consultancy.