Why do clients pick one ad agency over another?

A lot of marketing dollars from around the world ride on this question. Well, I reckon there are five basic reasons that influence a client’s decision. Each of them play a factor, but every client is different in the  level of importance they allocate to each.

1. Relationship

You see this time and time again, when a marketer moves companies and soon hires an agency they previously worked with. And that’s fair enough. If you have a good relationship with someone that’s tried and trusted then why not go with it?

Also falling into this category is the client that is just looking for a buddy – someone they can call anytime and have a chat with, or someone they can hit the golf fairway with, eat at fancy restaurants with, etc.

2. The Work

By ‘work’, I mean the ideas and the end product that appears on our TV screens, billboards, magazine pages, etc. The purists in agency-land would love to believe that if you get this right, it’s all that matters. And in an ideal world, that would be the truth. ‘Best work wins’, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

3. Cost

There’s always an agency willing to do it cheaper. And in recent times, this trend is pushing ad agencies into a position that simply isn’t sustainable. Plus, the work ultimately suffers because lower margins means you can’t afford to have the best people working for you (or giving the time required). There are no winners in a numbers game, only casualties.

4. Resource suitability

Some agencies are organised to fulfil specific needs. A client might want an agency with expertise or processes that suit a particular type of advertising (retail specialists, digital specialists, promotion specialists, fast turn-around stuff,etc).

5. Obedience

Marketers choose this type of agency because it makes them feel powerful, or they feel safe knowing they’ll get pretty much exactly what they ask for, when they ask for it. There is often no room for exploring new options, or unconventional approaches. In many ways, the agency’s role is reduced to that of a  studio. They cease to be partners in solving business and/or communication problems. Their role is simply one of servitude. In this position, creative people’s passion is often snuffed out.

So, if you’re a marketer, where do you place the weight of your criteria? Or if you’re an agency, which ones are your priority? It’s only when the agency and marketer are on the same page that a healthy marriage happens.

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