5 Reasons Why You Should Not Fire Your Ad Agency


..And 5 Reasons Why You Should.

Having worked with literally hundreds of clients in previous life as an ad agency CEO (and many more in the 12-year history of the Strum Consulting Group), I have a strong perspective on the merits and demerits of moving to a new communications agency. With the wisdom of hindsight, where we all know who won the NFL games last Sunday, it is clear to me the circumstances when agencies deserve to get the axe, and those when they did not.

First of all, in evaluating a relationship with a communications agency, a company needs to first determine whether an “agency of record” relationship has value or whether their needs are better suited to a project relationship. If the needs are for a finite project with a defined scope of work that will begin and end, a project relationship would be best.

But if ongoing strategic guidance is desired (and hopefully delivered by the agency) a retained relationship makes more sense. So for purposes of this Struming, let’s assume Company A is in an agency of record (AOR) relationship with Agency XY& Z. This can be for a full service relationship or an agency of record for a particular discipline, which is more likely in today’s business world.

If you are thinking of moving your account, here are 5 reasons you should continue to work with your current firm and not move your business, and conversely, 5 reasons why you should move on.

5 Reasons not to move:

1. The new CMO wants to bring in his/her old shop.

The new CMO may be gone in 18-24 months. They need to demonstrate to his/her satisfaction that the incumbent resource is not ideal. The #1 reason (often unjustified) business moves is to satisfy the new CMO.

2. You have a long term relationship with your agency, but there have been recent problems.

Perhaps the new rep at the agency is not strong, or their recent work substandard. Talk to them. Tell them of your dissatisfaction in direct terms. Give them a reasonable, yet immediate, opportunity to address the issues and fix the problem. Listen to their ideas as well.

3. Sales are weak for reasons having not to do with marketing, yet you want to make a move to show action to others. Fix the real problem!

 4. You want to get a cheaper agency.

Obviously cost is always an issue, but value is more important. You can reduce cost easily and a new agency seeking the new account , may charge less in the short term. But every firm is in business to earn a fair profit. Your new agency will be unhappy soon enough if they took the account on the cheap. If you want to reduce cost, tell the agency the parameters and ask them to come back with a staffing/service solution that meets those parameters.

5. Your weak marketing staff is ineffective in communicating and providing leadership.

You need to reassess your own staff. A new agency will not fix an internal issue.

Nonetheless there may be good reasons to move on. Here are 5 good reasons to move:

1. You don’t trust your agency.

This one is obvious. If there’s no trust, there’s no relationship. Move on.

2. The agency creates “stuff” but adds little value.

If the agency merely is an executor of marketing deliverables, then you needn’t have an AOR relationship anyhow. Often in this case, the agency may be “mailing it in”, i.e. going through the motions and showing no initiative.

3. The agency is a pain to work with.

If every discussion is painful and they argue with you on every occasion, something is really wrong. You don’t need “yes men”, but constant bickering doesn’t work either.  Some tension is actually OK, but if there’s constant tension, there’s something wrong (it might be you too).

4. Your sales are weak and marketing is a contributing factor.

If the agency lacks the ideas or firepower to make a real impact, then it’s time for a change.

5. Your agency does not “play well” with the other agencies you work with, and consistently looks to blame others instead of solving problems.

There are many more reasons to either stay with or conversely to leave your current agency. One thing is always clear. Choosing a new resource is costly in time and effort. As in any relationship, whether it’s business or personal, it’s always better to try to fix the problems if at all possible. If you have really passed the point of no return, be forthright, and act swiftly, with integrity and deeply consider what role your played in the relationship’s demise because if you don’t, you’ll be going down the same road with your next agency.

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