According to my CIM coursebook, the following criteria should be used to shortlist agencies
- Area of expertise
- Quality of existing clients
- Reputation of principals and experience of staff
- Agency fees and methods of charging/payment
- In-house resources
- Geographical cover
While the selection of the agency should be based upon
- Credentials – track record and feedback
- Creative techniques – evidence of creativity and innovation
- Staff – number, tenure and experience
- The agency – resources, objectives, service level agreements
- Specialism – focus
- Price – clear and reasonable structure
- Legal – methods to ensure compliance with regulations
- Pitch – whether it met the requirements of the brief
The list isn’t fully comprehensive, but it acts as a reasonable guide – assuming you want to ignore slightly shadier aspects like favouritism
It can act as a useful checklist when pitching for new business. Of course, this only considers absolute performance/measures. When in a competitive pitch, the relative strengths become most important as pitching agencies are traded off against one another.
With open pitch processes, comparative advantage can be identified and relative strengths can be focused upon. With closed/opaque bids, this isn’t possible. So an agency will need to estimate where its relative and absolute strengths lie.
A good agency will have the relevant market intelligence to make a decent stab at this. A bad agency won’t. (Though of course industry fragmentation and lack of market definiton makes the potential competition so broad that it may not be possible/efficient to undertake)
Incidentally, the book also lists five key roles for an account planner (derived from Yeshin).
- Defining the task and bringing together the key information
- Preparing the creative brief
- Creative development, including being the “custodian” of brand values
- Presenting to the clients to convey concepts and defent rationale
- Tracking performance
The focus of this can be adjusted so that it is also applicable to researchers – on the assumption that planners/researchers play a central role throughout the project or campaign. Some people might disagree about that.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mistersnappy/2282846520/