Any company that has ever tried to hire a new advertising or marketing communications agency knows:
Not all agencies have the same experience, staff, work ethic, or personal chemistry.
Choosing the wrong agency
There comes a time, however, in the life of almost every company when they conclude it is time to hire a new agency.
Blueprint Communications knows how to conduct a successful advertising agency review and selection process. Our blueprints or processes have successfully assisted many companies like yours over the past 12 years.
Why we are successful?
Helping companies like yours select a new advertising agency is something we do often. We know what to do and what not to do.
We have done it for major companies and more modestly sized companies, government institutions and non-profits.
We have found that one of the keys to success is comprehensive planning.
While anyone can select an advertising agency based on word-of-mouth, a colleague's suggestion or surface impressions, doing the kind of thorough job that assures you will find the right fit for you and your needs requires experience and dedication of time and skills not readily available in most companies, regardless of size.
Incidentally,when we use the term, you in this discussion, we are referring to senior management, marketing and advertising staff, and any other individuals that management feels should have some say in the matter. That team usually includes people that will have to work with your new advertising agency to gain the agencys most effective contribution to your success. It can occasionally include key vendors.
Why Blueprint Communications?
Our agency review and selection process is thorough, customized and effective in pointing out what you need to know about candidate agencies to make the right decision.
We conduct reviews for clients seeking agencies for:
Through experience Blueprint Communications has learned that the process has several key components:
Clients' Needs Assessment
We start here because finding the optimum agency fit requires first that you identify what you and your company expect and require from your new advertising agency. Each company is different and each agency is different. We use in-depth interviews with your people involved with selecting the agency. This helps you determine precisely what you and your team will expect from a new advertising agency.
We provide a report of our findings to you and your team and provide a profile of the optimum agency based on your input. This profile becomes an important tool for you and your team throughout the review and selection process.
This critical step also gives us:
Blueprint Communications uses two processes to gather client input. The first is a series of structured interviews to gather individual input. The second is a facilitated Force Field Analysis that uses your current agency relationship to identify areas for improvement with a new agency.
A Force Field Analysis provides a whole view of all the forces for and against the existing client-agency relationship. It is a specialized method of weighting the pros and cons of the existing agency relationship, which can be helpful when establishing a relationship with a new agency.
Advertising Agency Screening
Based upon your input, as recorded and analyzed by Blueprint Communications, and your agreement with the suggested profile of the optimum agency for you, Blueprint provides an initial list of agencies for your consideration.
Blueprint Communications then uses its industry knowledge and insights to provide a list of agencies that fit your criteria. Following your approval of this list of agencies, we invite the screened agencies to participate in the review and selection process.
Part of this step, if not previously done, is to create a detailed Scope of Work (SOW) outlining the work you expect the agency to perform, once it is selected. Blueprint Communications can guide you in developing a thorough and accurate SOW. The SOW gives Blueprint Communications and candidate agencies the information required to understand your requirements and expectations.
The Scope of Work (SOW) provides the agency with the necessary background information as well as a specific description of the required deliverables and expectations. A thorough SOW is necessary for the client and agency to accurately determine appropriate organization and staffing and compensation levels, and for solid contract development. Without a thorough SOW, it is unlikely that agency organization and staffing levels will be appropriate. The implications for managing agency compensation are obvious.
The SOW should be prepared in advance of the contract year. Some details may need to be projected or estimated based on prior year experience (e.g. number of media plans to develop, number of television commercials to produce, number of web sites to develop, etc). Other details, which cannot be projected or estimated should be marked TBD and addressed promptly.
Although the SOW is intended to be as stable as possible, given marketplace dynamics, it should be understood that the SOW is somewhat flexible and will undergo revisions during the course of the work year.
The SOW is normally a client responsibility but input from your agency is important to assure completeness.
The suggested SOW requirements are as follows:
A detailed description of the client's mission, organization, business and marketing objectives.
This is a listing of the client product or service designations that are to receive agency support.
This section describes the client marketing organization and how it functions within the company and how it functions in the management of marketing communications activity.
This section covers in detail the strategic and creative service required from the agency or agencies. For example, the development of a new brand including name, design and positioning strategy. The creation of a uniform message strategy and the number of different creative executions (print, television, radio, digital, etc) needed to support the new strategy.
This describes and clarifies basic requirements and policies for the agency that are not specific to the individual communications disciplines or agency services. This would include client conflicts, confidentiality requirements, dedicated versus non-dedicated staffing, diversity practices, etc. Technology and Financial/Billing requirements should be listed under their own separate headings (see below).
This section is a listing of applicable projected budgets by communications type (i.e. advertising, digital, public relations, etc.) by product and service designations for the client calendar/fiscal year.
This covers in detail all media management (i.e. research, analysis, planning, implementation, added value, testing, tracking, reporting) and other requirements including timing and media performance standards. The projected volume of work in terms of required number of media evaluations, plans/revisions, buying/revisions, sponsorships (by media type and local market designation), budget tracking, and market place updates.
Also a description of the client's media planning/buying development and approval process, post buy, requirements, attendance and participation in regularly scheduled status meetings, and any other client requirements that would have an impact on agency organization and staffing should be covered.
A chart should be included which breaks out projected media spending, by media type and by product or service designation for the client's calendar or fiscal year.
If commercial trafficking is to be an agency responsibility, this section should cover in detail all managment and coordination, tracking and all other technical requirements, projected volume of work (should tie into sections above), and any other requirements that will have an impact on the agency's staffing and organization in this service area.
This defines the overall client technology and systems requirements of the agency. This would be specific requirements for connectivity, e-mail, client extranet, etc.
This section covers all management and coordination, estimates, coding, affidavit requirements, discrepancies, bill issuance, true-ups, cash flow trafficking and all other requirements related to finance and billing.
Advertising Agency Evaluation
It bears repeating that every agency is different and will not only approach how they work for you differently but also how they present their strengths and experiences to you.
Blueprint Communications uses the information from your Needs Assessment to develop a Request for Information (RFI) that puts the written presentation of agency credentials and capabilities on an even basis for your review. The RFI is sent to the initial list of agencies.
The outcome of this step is to provide a recommended list of semi-finalist agencies based on your input and our proprietary knowledge of the industry, as well as pertinent information submitted by the agencies via the RFI. The goal is a manageable number of candidate agencies for more in-depth evaluation.
Blueprint Communications helps you by summarizing input from you and your team to facilitate decision-making on semi-finalist agency selection.
Drawing on the Client Needs Assessment and Blueprint Communications experience, we develop customized agency evaluation tools, these tools help you and your team evaluate the RFI information submitted by the candidate agencies.
From this point forward, Blueprint Communications coordinates all activity by candidate agencies, including notification of the results of the evaluation process and debriefing of agencies that are eliminated.
Organization, Staffing and Compensation,
As part of this step, Blueprint Communications develops a Request for Proposal (RFP) concerning agency organization and staffing and compensation. These RFPs are based on the SOW and previous input from you. They are issued to finalist candidates at the appropriate time, although customarily they are developed at this stage of the process in order to allow ample time for fine-tuning by you and your team.
Simultaneously, Blueprint Communications works with you to develop a Presentation Assignment to be used later in the selection process by the finalist candidate agencies. This assignment is based on everything we have learned while assessing your needs, the SOW and other input from you and your team. The Presentation Assignment is designed to reveal agency strengths, and weaknesses, strategic and tactical thinking.
Final selection of your agency is based primarily on your evaluation of the agencys Presentation Assignment. As with RFPs, Presentation Assignments typically are developed earlier in the process to allow for fine-tuning with you.
Agency Visits and Evaluations
Prior to the final presentations, Blueprint Communications organizes and arranges for you to visit and evaluate semi-finalist agencies in order to arrive at three or four finalists. Blueprint Communications creates an appropriate agenda for your visit and provides the agencies with pertinent instructions, briefing material and the SOW.
These agency visits are opportunities for you and your team to meet the agency personnel identified to staff your account. We also consider this an opportunity to assess each agencys resources, skills, capabilities and results achieved for other clients. The importance of these visits is underscored by the difficulty of assessing agency qualities on a single pitch meeting.
Prior to the agency visits, Blueprint Communications provides you and your selection team with guidance on what to watch and listen for during the visits, how to evaluate agency suitability and provides materials for evaluation and scoring.
As a result of the visits, Blueprint Communications tabulates and summarizes the scoring by your selection team and helps you make a selection of the three or four best candidates for final consideration. We notify the finalist agencies and debrief those that are eliminated at this stage.
Organization, Staffing and Compensation
Next, Blueprint Communications delivers Organization/Staffing and Compensation RFPs, and the Presentation Assignment to the finalist agencies. The RFPs may include, at your direction, consideration of performance-based compensation.
We also coordinate scheduling and logistics for the finalist presentations, while coordinating all agency activity and fielding agencies questions.
All RFPs are collected by Blueprint Communications about two weeks in advance of the presentation schedule. This allows time to analyze this information, prepare findings and recommendations and report these to you and your team prior to the scheduled finalist presentations.
Blueprint Communications coordinates finalist presentations, usually at your offices or another venue requested by you, and normally with no more than two presentations scheduled for any single day. Prior to the presentations, Blueprint Communications provides you with guidelines for what to look for and listen for in the presentations, criteria for evaluating agency presentations and scoring materials. Following the presentations, we tabulate and summarize scoring by you and your selection team.
Blueprint Communications guides you through an evaluation of agency performance/skills and value in relation to proposed advertising compensation. We then help your final agency selection pending finalization of the compensation and contract.
We assist you and your team in making the agency selection. Often, this is a formality, as you and your team probably have reached a consensus following the evaluation of the Agency Presentation Assignment. If questions about organization, staffing or compensation need to be resolved before making a final agency decision, Blueprint Communications will assist in resolving them. In most cases, these issues are minor and can be worked out after a decision has been made about which agency to select.
Blueprint communications assists you in notifying the selected agency and debriefs the agencies that were not selected.
Blueprint Communications assists you, your purchasing officers and your attorney in developing the desired agency contract and compensation plan, including performance-based compensation, if appropriate. This step in the process is usually goes smoothly because of all the preparation with the SOW and RFP responses.
Throughout the process of selecting a new agency, Blueprint Communications provides ongoing advice concerning management of the incumbent agency, communications with the press and all other management issues that might arise. We will also work with you to check references of agencies you are considering. We also stay in touch with all agencies under consideration and keep you informed of any developments that may affect your decision.
For a personal and confidential discussion of how
Blueprint Communications, Inc. - 5580 Stapleton Drive - Atlanta, Georgia 30338