Marketers’ wish lists

Clients describe what they really need from their agency partners to help them build profitable, long-term relationships.

Andrew Wyant, VP of marketing, Lifelock
: McCann Erickson West
: Results

What everyone wants from every agency is results. But, in order to get to results you have to have a hierarchy that builds to those results.

Fundamentally, to get to great creative, there has to be some insight into… your business. What you want from an agency to get to that insight is a process of taking millions of pieces of information that every company has and sifting through it. You need to know in the selection process that the agency you’re dealing with has the capacity to get there, because the idea of great creative just coming out of people who have interesting ideas or great mindsets really seems to be a thing of the past.

Getting people’s attention and getting them to listen to our particular message is directly related to the deep insights they have into what the consumer wants. In selecting an agency, they need to demonstrate in some way their “secret sauce” — how they get from the information about your customers and what your objective is as a business to the great creative.

Jaime Cohen Szulc, Global CMO, Levi Strauss & Co.
Agencies: Wieden & Kennedy, Razorfish
: Integration

It is normal that a company our size will have multiple agencies. It’s about how you coordinate your network of agencies. I call that agency network architecture. You have to manage the inflow of creative in a way that is productive. That is one of the key projects that I am working on, to make sure that those dialogs and those forums occur. You are going to have the burden one way or another, so it puts the burden on the companies to find a way to have a system that works. More and more agencies are leaning towards that concept and understanding how difficult it is.

Recently I had a case where our advertising agency, PR agency and our digital agency each proposed digital solutions. I said to each one of them, “I’ve got three proposals for digital solutions here, and they are all different. So how are we going to resolve that?” When you bring the data most people are reasonable and they understand that you can’t invest in three different digital communications platforms that wouldn’t make any sense for the brand.

Chris Hewitt, Senior director of marketing operations, Lumension
Agencies: Spark Design
: Solid strategy

Agencies need to focus on understanding the distinct, and important, difference between strategy and tactics. “Strategy” is an emotive word in business — and, in my experience, it tends to be overly and incorrectly used by agencies.  Social media, for instance, is such a hot topic that many organizations are searching for a brilliant “social media strategy.”  The reality, which many agencies seem to overlook, is that social media is a tactic. Not everything is a strategy.

When tactics are broadly treated as strategies the message and execution becomes highly fragmented, leading to unauthentic campaigns that confuse audiences, return little value, and damage brands.  The sustainable success of a tactic is derived from core business strategies like objectives, segmentation, messaging and positioning. To me, agencies are powerfully differentiated by their demonstrated ability to layer their unique concepts and resources on top of a solid strategic foundation — client- or agency-created.

Frank McGillin, VP of marketing, communications and branding, Philips Healthcare
: Anderson DDB, Molecular, Isobar
: Customer insight

The ideal agency gets our customer base and thinks of interactive ways to interact with that audience. An agency that’s all about the latest technical gadgets that doesn’t understand what it’s like to be, say, a radiologist, or understand the demands of a hospital administrator finds it difficult to apply those technologies in a way that’s not a cool gimmick. It’s important for an agency to get its head wrapped around our customer segments. Then they can think about applying a campaign strategy or marketing technology in a way that will move the needle for us.

The challenge is healthcare is that it is an inherently complex business, but there’s a desire for simpler approaches. We sell MRIs — million-dollar pieces of equipment that are incredibly complex. If I tried to sell it on every technical feature, people’s eyes will glaze over. But I can’t sell fluff. A good agency in the healthcare space gets the complexity of the healthcare delivery and can help us present our solutions in a way that the lightbulb goes off and people can say “I get it — now I know why I want to buy Philips.” If you bring in someone that’s more of a consumer shop, they may start selling fluff and it’s useless — but on the flip side, you don’t want a bunch of engineers writing copy, which doesn’t have impact. It’s someone who can live in the complexity of the healthcare world and make it simple.

Sean Cheyney, VP of marketing and business development, Accuquote
: Performance Bridge, Converge Direct
: Listening skills

Agencies have to speak our language. Many times we’ll talk to agencies, and they’re talking in terms of brand metrics, but we’re talking in terms of direct response metrics. They’re vastly different, and if the agency we’re dealing with doesn’t understand that and talk in that way, the relationship will not work. We’re in an RFP process right now, and the people we’ve whittled down are really the people who took the time to understand our business and what is important to our customers. What we’re looking at are people who have our goals in mind — strengthening our relationship between our employees and our customers and applying it to a plan.

Sometimes I’ll spend an hour on the phone explaining exactly what we’re looking to do, and get a plan back that’s way out in left field. A lot of it is just taking the time up front to learn about our business, what’s worked and what’s not worked for us. When we select an agency, we want to know that they’ve done direct response work for people in the financial sector. It doesn’t have to be life insurance, but if they have a proven track record in financial services all in terms of response.

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