Contributed by Carrie Golvash, Client Solutions Engagement Manager, SGK


Today’s marketers are tasked with generating demand for their brands, products and services and their marketing budgets are being scrutinised and squeezed like never before. Agency spend always ranks high within these tight budgets. Improving the agency selection process, which is usually missing or outdated, can yield great returns for organisations.


Agency Selection Pitfalls
Organisations can fall into several traps that break or eschew a strong agency selection process. Sometimes there is a peanut butter approach, spreading all creative design assignments to one agency, from the most strategic brand campaigns to simple packaging edits. This approach is driven by a universal struggle for marketers to do more with less, often looking for efficiencies within their agency spend. However, while marketers may think that they are saving money by bundling all of their creative work to one agency, in reality very few agencies are suited to meet all of a client’s creative demands.

You may want a creative project done quickly, so you reach out to your trusted strategic agency. While they certainly have the requisite brand knowledge, project timing may conflict with their established processes and conventions. An analysis of hourly pricing for a low-level creative assignment compared two respected agencies, one strategic and the other more equipped for fast-turn work; the latter could save the client 37%1 of the total cost of project execution.

Relationships and historical precedence can also influence suboptimal agency selection. If there are no tools in place like an agency roster or clear agency roles and responsibilities, work can quickly be awarded based on a marketer’s prior working relationships. This tends to foster a “wild, wild west” mentality to agency management. The number of agencies can quickly multiply, creating little rhyme or reason to agency pricing or project fees.

All of these traps involve insufficient rigor and structure. To correct the course, the most effective marketing organisations deploy these practices to add in process and visibility to agency selection.


5 simple tips for matching creative work to agencies
(1) Classify Creative by Levels of Required Strategic Thinking.
Create classifications that link design assignments with the level of strategic thinking. Many organisations use a grading scale (A, B, or C) for the level of design work. Pushing design work down the matrix can help expedite and save money on design adaptations or line extensions. This kind of framework has demonstrated up to 37% savings* within marketing budgets.


(2) Identify Agency Core Capabilities.
It is very important to understand your agencies’ capabilities. This goes beyond just working with your account manager, you should know or at least meet or understand who is the creative team. Beyond agency history, evaluate the agency’s body of work, understanding their key contributions they make to the creative assignment. Review and analyse your findings, then build and create the organisation’s agency roster. Make it clear to the organisation who should be engaged for different creative assignments.


(3) Categorise Brands by Size and Scale.
The size and scale of the brand can determine the level of creative and strategic support. How does that translate to creative assignments? Can you begin to bundle brands that share similar insights or the same consumer landscape or the same shelf? Then assess the level of financial support the organisation can offer – are these brands growing or are they struggling? Does the brand warrant heavy or light design investment and would the brand benefit and respond? These are very hard, long-term strategic decisions.


(4) Create Swim Lanes for Creative Agencies.
A swim lane diagram will document clear ownership and responsibilities for each agency across a project. This is especially critical within “big idea” sessions. For example, if a digital agency proposes leveraging augmented reality for a marketing campaign, then the package design agency should drive on-pack execution. Of course, the digital agency may need to be consulted for idea intent, but be extremely strict. Defined boundaries will limit rework and excess agency fees.


(5) Develop Adaptive Workflows & Brand Guidelines.
Document the design workflow and designate when creative hand-offs should happen between agencies. Ask your lead strategic agency to develop brand guidelines to ensure consistency with other agencies. Within these guidelines, executional mandates should be clearly stated and outlined. This tool will help marketing teams evaluate incoming creative, but more importantly will drive brand consistency and communication across multiple agencies.


The successful implementation of the tools outlined above will help your organisation match the right agency to the right creative assignment. This deeper understanding around agency selection prompts smarter decisions which leads to less rework, increased efficiencies in spending and better utilisation of internal and external creative resources.

For more information on agency selection and agency resourcing models, please contact the SGK Continuous Improvement team to learn about how to use these tools and this framework within your organisation.

Carrie Golvash brings 20+ years of CPG expertise in agency management, brand design and launching new products into the marketplace. As a member of the SGK Client Solutions Team, Carrie has strategically led initiatives with CPGs to increase their speed-to-market, reduce costs in the marketing supply chain and better utilize their internal and external resources. Prior to SGK, Carrie headed up the brand design and packaging department for Heinz North America.

*Estimate based on CI Initiative at $12B Global CPG Company that focused on implementing a more adaptive agency strategy rather than strategic agency strategy.

[1] Analysis between two agencies from a prior life showed agency one’s pricing was $175/per hour. Design Adaptive agency was $110/per hour. Based on estimates between the two agencies, client would save 60% on the project if awarded to adaptive agency.

The author is a 3rd party contributor to AdAsia and this article represents her views.


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