“Our [expletive deleted] is the best out there!!” exhorted the CEO of this entertainment company in his gruff South African accent. “Our [expletive deleted] is so [expletive deleted] good that I’m confident no one’s even [expletive deleted] close to touching it!” In light of such beaming confidence, what did I say? “I’ve seen enough of this [expletive deleted] to verify your claims. And if I can’t verify them, we’ll [expletive deleted] tell you how to get it there.”
This particular company had a specialized marketing department with some proprietary software to track its efforts, customized to their needs, but suitable for their competitors. They called in the consultants because they wanted to make money from this combination of software and personnel, without impacting their own internal productivity from this department.
So, the first thing we did was develop a report card just for them. The report card showed that the CEO was indeed accurate in his assessment — his software was unique and exploitable. Regrettably, neither the people or internal processes were set up to exploit it.
Despite your impressions about consultants, our recommendation wasn’t to fire everyone. In fact, their people were quality people and their culture still new enough to change, so our final recommendations suggested role additions, simplifications, and changes, enhanced recruiting, training, and healthier churning, and better knowledge management. From these changes and anticipated client relationships, it was possible for this department to break a $1 million in revenues in less than 5 years.
This is an extreme example of how a consultant may increase the value of a marketing department to an organization, but the idea remains the same: investing to audit your marketing department may discover hidden value and value-destroyers. Imagine being able to stretch your seemingly already-overstretched budget without sacrificing even the least critical program in your portfolio?
Consider the following:
1) During an engagement for a cable network, we learned that by following the “party-line”, which they had been contributing to because of their sizable marketing budget, they were overspending by about 20%, entirely due to distractions from the overwhelming workload by their executives. Upon studying the workflow bottlenecks and giving them the templates to better evaluate the performance of their media partners, after a single month, they were able to realize promised savings.
There is no law that states you can’t modify your relationships with media and creative partners. The challenge is in having the right personality in place to take the moderated lead on these sort of efforts, particularly since so much of the business is based on “valued” relationships. If you can’t find that person, the next best thing is to piss off the people who are currently in place enough with data that proves their “friends” are ripping them off.
Regrettably, buying creativity can’t quite have a spending benchmark, (a lesson this author learned from having taught college-level copywriting), but it can have a formal framework on how to manage, which include metrics like total number of ideas acceptable; not daily limits, but definite deadlines; full disclosure and support from clients; and most importantly, non-exclusive agreements.
Agencies sell ideas and it’s not rational (financial or otherwise) to have a single agency of record as the sole source of external, “objective” ideas. (This argument doesn’t entirely exclude media buyers, since consolidated buying is a proven source of savings. But when concentrating spending, media buyers always overlook more relevant, better targeted channels. Fee-based media advisors are recommended here).
The current structure of agency competition where accounts are “in play” also perpetuates this irrational delivery of ideas. When advertisers open their accounts to multiple agencies and vendors, adjusting fees in the process, and open-ending their agreements to allow agencies the freedom to perform their duties at their optimal levels, rather than treating them like machines operating off legal and accounting instructions will ensure the delivery of the maximum number of relevant, executable ideas.
(Signs of this sea change in the advertiser-agency relationship have been emerging for the last two years, but it has been achieved by elevating the account management contact point to the holding company level instead of the agency level. Whether or not this delivers the variety of ideas a marketer truly deserves is still in debate).