In a meeting with a Media Agency CEO recently, I was asked, “what are marketers really looking for from their Media Agencies?”

Many Media Agencies believe the holy trinity to be “innovation”, “creativity” and “partnership”. Of course, these are critical contributors to the success of a marketer’s communications.

But so are cut through creative, great packaging, a great sales force, optimum distribution and retailers that support them (plus a myriad of other considerations) – so let’s not fool ourselves into believing that all marketers have to think about is media.

Good media practice is a given.

Since media “departments” spun out of creative agencies in the early nineties to become standalone businesses, the calibre of the media product, in line with the emergence of media opportunities, has grown substantially.

All marketers expect that their media agency has the expertise, the tools and the manpower to deliver a well-considered media product.

So why are so many accounts placed under review?

In some cases it is the responsibility of good corporate governance. Government, public and private companies regularly review suppliers to ensure that they continue to deliver a product that it is best in market. And to those that read “best in market” as “cheapest”, you are wrong. That is normally a comment reserved for those who lose. Sure, price is a consideration, but only in relation to market benchmarks.

Excluding the above, the vast majority of clients we talk to are placing their Media Agency under review for one simple reason, and this is common in all client/supplier relationships. That reason is service, or lack thereof.

The media pitch situation shows an Agency’s best work, people and intentions. Optimism abounds that the Agency can deliver the work and people committed to during the successful pitch.

However what many marketers experience post the honeymoon period is that the Agency has promised the world but fail to deliver. It is service levels that are the greatest disappointment of all.

Service level shortfalls appear in a range of forms, not always mutually exclusive:

  • Declining interest in the client’s business from senior management
  • Recommendation of strategies that cannot be executed (either through logistic or economic impracticality)
  • Failure to meet deadlines
  • Frequent staff changes (often the client finds out the media agency contact is no longer on their account, or have indeed has left the agency AFTER the event)
  • Failure to provide basic reporting
  • Inaccurate invoicing/accounts

And the list goes on…

Often the ammunition from the Media Agency for falling service levels is that fees don’t support the service expectation, and I know as I write this there will be those that accuse companies such as ours of driving down costs. I remind them that the market dictates the fee a client pays, not a third party.

We acknowledge that there are genuine situations where the scope of work is greater than the Agency had anticipated when establishing fee commitments. These situations should be addressed by rational discussion, not by failing to deliver to a commitment while holding your hand out for more!

If you want to keep clients, provide them the service that you pledged when pitching the business. It really is that simple.

If you want to win clients, promise them the world, but if you do, be prepared to deliver it!