How is your relationship with your agency?

I just read a short but interesting post over at Marketing Agency Talk titled: “Does The Agency Model Still Work?“.

This has gotten me thinking about how our business has evolved over the years. It is quite true that while we used to have regular clients who work with us no matter what, such instances are rare today. Most clients know what they want and they also know that there are plenty of choices out there.

Worse, with the technologies evolving so quickly and the possibilities expanding everyday, it is almost impossible for any agency to be “excellent” in every aspect. This then results in clients working with multiple agencies across a wide spectrum of marketing needs.

As a small agency, this is particularly telling, as we will not be able to hire all the specialist talents needed. There are, of course, workarounds that we can employ. But the fact remains that a whole plethora of skills are needed and that no single agency will be able to have a monopoly on them.

But what is the core to your success with clients? I would hazard a guess and say that most likely, it is the relationship of trust and goodwill that keeps the business going. If you are able to maintain that, you will have a chance to be the main go-to agency, the cog in the wheel, so to speak.

Do you agree that it is essentially the good relationships you have that keeps your agency going? Or your skills, or both?

How To Survive As A Small Agency

“Robert Kiyosaki said only 5% of those who started their own business will survive beyond 5 years, so you must be doing quite well. Doing business now tough or not?” Someone said that to me that when I attended a preview last weekend.

Sometimes, I wonder why I try so hard. In a world dominated by the large, multi-national advertising agencies, there is so little left for small creative agencies. Yet, there is this fire in me Continue reading “How To Survive As A Small Agency”

4 Great Tips To Spotting and Hiring a Good AE (Account Executive)

Since I did the previous post on My AE Knows Nuts, I have been getting quite a few emails and feedback (positive and hilarious).

Selecting Candidate

But one question deserves an answer. An associate asked, if the role of an Account Executive is so important in a marketing or advertisng agency, how can we identify a good one? What a great question. This is one for the Human Resource history books. Bosses through the ages, have been trying to answer that same question in almost every industry, every company in the world. We cannot answer this question universally, however, from experience, there are certain characteristics that seem to be present among the good AEs. Continue reading “4 Great Tips To Spotting and Hiring a Good AE (Account Executive)”

Cheated by your Marketing Agency through a Pitch?

Have you had the experience of inviting the top dogs in the marketing and advertising industry to pitch for your campaign? I bet you were totally awed by their creative We Won!proposals and absolutely charmed by their account executives. You congratulated yourself on selecting the right marketing or advertising agency. But then, when the honeymoon period was over, the people that liaised with you were no longer the same team that saw you during the agency review and pitch day. I’m sure it has happened to some of you out there. Continue reading “Cheated by your Marketing Agency through a Pitch?”

“My AE knows Nuts!”

“My AE knows nuts. He’s no more than a coordinator with a big sounding name.”

Is he nuts?This is another common complain heard from the client side as well as the Account Executive’s own agency, especially from his creative department. I can empathize with the client who believe that the AE should be responsible, at least partially, to help generate awareness and sales, but I can also fully relate to the poor guy who is totally bewildered and clueless of his role and responsibilities (the AE, of course).

The AE is the liaison between his agency and his agency’s client. And within his own agency, he’s got to work closely with creative, art, studio, production, media and more departments to get his projects done. In some way, he is the beef patty in a hamburger, being squeezed from both sides. And he has to manage them all; making sure both sides are happy, i.e., deliver a great campaign for his client and profits to his agency.

Many small agencies choose to hire someone fresh from school or with just 2-3 years’ experience in marketing or sales and leave them to fend for themselves. This is a mistake. Without proper guidance, this rookie AE will likely end up writing tons of contact reports to his clients, and parroting his clients’ wish list to his agency. That would certainly irk them all. Why? Because one expects him to be his extended marketing arm, while the other requires him to bring in a sufficiently complete brief to kick start a brainstorm/creative session.

While seemingly simple, the job of the AE is a complex web of communications, street smarts, market knowledge and a mixture of skills that would make a normal sales man swoon in confusion!

What does it take to be a successful AE? Generally, he would have to be:

Knowledgeable – Good grasp of marketing communications, marketing and sales concepts. Without these, he can’t help to sell anything!

Business savvy – In-depth understanding of the client’s business, the marketplace and his client’s clients.

Analytical and Insightful – Analyze the client’s Agency Brief (see earlier blog Is Your Ad Agency Really So Lousy!), ask intelligent questions, all these information plus own insights to write a Creative Brief for his agency. The creative brief, like the client’s agency brief, could make or break a project.

Good interpersonal skills – Extremely useful in getting things done within the agency where almost all projects are important or urgent. This is also of paramount importance in escalating the client-agency relationship to new heights.

AE’s job is no mean feat and may not suit everyone. But for those who enjoy and flourish as AE, good for them. I know for sure they would cherish every moment of success and were wiser from every knocks and falls.

PS: I receivedĀ a few interesting and hilarious feedback on this post and that spurred me to write more details on How to Hire and Spot a Good AE (Account Executive). Check it out!

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[tags]ad agency, advertising agency, marketing agency, AE, Account Executive, Advertising Executive, Criteria for hiring Account Executive, Qualities of Account Executive[/tags]

Is Your Marketing or Advertising Agency Really So Lousy?

“My advertising agency is so lousy!”.

This is one common complaint you can hear in the advertising industry. Having worked both sides of the fence, I can sympathize with the poor agencies who get knocked on the head, and I can empathize with the clients who see good money wasted on hapless campaigns.

But since that statement is made “client side”, let me address it from
there. Surprisingly, there are great agencies with fantastic creative
teams that produce really shoddy work. How can this be? The same
award winning team for XYZ Brand comes over to market your absolutely
fabulous product and makes a boo-boo out of it.

Now, all things being equal, it is unlikely that the team has consumed
all their creativity and are now empty husks working on your account!
I would like to propose one highly possible, and most likely cause for
this strange phenomena.

This is related to a little piece of paper which we often call an
“Agency Brief” or as most Marketing Executives like to call it “my
boss unreasonable demand that I stay up past midnight to finish this
silly brief”. You see, the Executive thinks that the product is so
well known, the company is so famous, the agency is so capable, there
is nothing that needs to be said. Go for the meeting, tell them we
want a nice creative advertisement for our Chinese New Year offer,
throw in a poster and a direct mailer. Done. No need for some silly
“Agency Brief”.

That’s not the right attitude.

To get the most out of your advertising agency, you, as a client; will need to take some time and effort to create a solid Agency Brief. No matter that the agency has been with your company for 10 years. No matter that the guys and gals there live and breath your products “too”. Unlike you, they do NOT work for your company. They each likely have lots of other clients, other projects.

How do you create a good Agency Brief? You will have to cover all grounds from your company’s perspective to the marketplace to your clients’. On a broad stroke, you will need to cover these bare essentials at the very least:

– Objectives, what exactly are you hoping to achieve
– Target audience, who will likely be the ones to buy your product
– Your offer mechanics
– Your desired effect or results
– Your budget

– Your time line

I hope that today’s entry will be helpful to some. Creating an Agency
Brief is perhaps the most fundamental ingredient for a client who
really wishes to get the best out of his advertising agency. Of
course, this applies if you are working with a freelance designer, a
graphics house or any other creative agencies.

Drop me an email at if you like to know more on writting an agency brief.

You might also like to pop over to David Airey’s site to read his views on How to Write a Graphic Design Brief.

My next blog, My AE knows Nuts will be looking at this same issue, but from the perspective of the poor beleaguered Accounts Manager.

Read These Popular Posts (and more filed under “Categories”):

How Much to Pay your Advertising Agency?

Does Pay by Performance works with an Advertising Agency?

How to use Pay by Performance with a Marketing Agency?

[tags]ad agency, advertising agency, marketing agency, agency brief, creative brief, how to brief ad agency, how to brief marketing and advertinsg campaign[/tags]