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Re-booting Media Agency Relations without the Costly Pitch

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team member

Natalie Morris

With recent articles of 2020 being a year of anticipated media pitches, we thought it was worth highlighting the alternatives to running pitches, which are costly, labour intensive and time consuming for both clients and agencies. As independent media consultants, who have worked both client and agency side, our experience is most pitches can be avoided. While we’re experts at pitch management, we recommend considering the alternatives first.

Here are 3 things that can be done to help re-boot client-agency relations and avoid the costly pitch.

1- Conduct a 360 Agency & Client Appraisal

A 360 review will provide a balanced perspective by assessing Client on Agency, Agency on Client and Self Appraisals for both. As a starting point, an assessment of a client’s marketing and media team’s capabilities is often helpful to determine if the team has the right skills to get the best work out of agency partners. Work that is data driven, consumer focused and future fit. Recruiting missing talent and/or ramping up L&D programs can have an immediate and positive impact for both client and agency partners.

Flock’s Agency Appraisal Tool provides a genuine 360 perspective where 100% of clients using the tool have seen improvement in client-agency relations. Many of those with “issues” see an immediate +40% improvement.

Matt Peterson, Brand Program Manager at GORE-TEX shared, “as someone who’s been on both sides of it: pitching is a beast for all involved. It eats shocking amounts of time and energy, even when well managed. That makes little business sense, so we’ve focused on building collaborative, win-win relationships and continuously improving results. Part of that includes thorough two-way appraisals of our collaboration, using Flock’s Agency Appraisal Tool. It provides insightful, actionable feedback on what we both need to do to improve”.

For details: Flock Agency Appraisal Tool

2- Initiate a “Get Fit” Program

Hosting “Get Fit” sessions, where client and agency can openly air challenges and collaboratively work through them together, can help get relations back on track. Also, by having transparent conversations about whether you need to save money or not, you may prevent a pitch. A “Get Fit” can save as much money as a pitch, without the effort. Ideally these should be led and facilitated by an independent consultant who can provide unbiased opinion.

Based on a recent “Get Fit” program Flock ran, an incumbent agency shared their views. Simon Davis (ex-CEO of Blue 449, now founder of Walk-In Media) said: “..by running through a well structured program with clearly understood and measurable deliverables, against a set timeframe, we improved our performance, retained the client, and set up a great relationship which improved understanding and generated working efficiencies on both sides.”

Even the best client-agency relationships can benefit from “Get Fit” sessions, as there are always areas that can be collectively improved or accelerated as a team.

3- Review your Agency People

Agencies are only as good as their talent. Agency relations can often be dramatically improved by a change in team or business lead. Or, conversely by stopping churn. Some agency talent should be rotated every few years on a business to provide fresh thinking and new ideas for the client, and to enable new opportunities and growth for agency staff. In other instances, measuring and agreeing on an acceptable level of churn and gaining contractual commitments to continuity may bring benefits.

Of course if the above measures fail, and relations and work do not improve, a pitch is likely warranted but should be seen as a last resort.

To re-boot agency relations, we have number of automated tools from Agency Appraisals, Capabilities Assessment to Scoping tools that can help. If you’re interested in the alternatives to pitch, please get in touch with Julie.Marshall@flock-associates.com.