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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An Agency's Ability to Deliver - People Are Talking

Industry talk is tantalizing. Externally, aided in great part by the plethora of awards, trade pubs and blogs, buzz tends to center around account-wins, creativity, and to a lesser extent, results. Published industry evaluation reports (e.g. AdWeek's Digital Agency Report Card, Forrester's Wave Studies) evaluate similar things, but an agency's ability to execute efficiently is not considered. However, within the industry, peer-to-peer at the bar (like when one PM asks another about a shop she used to work at), an agency's working environment, and its ability to deliver, are main topics.

I've had the opportunity to get out and about to various industry events and conferences recently. Good form prevents me from listing details of what I've overheard. I will say that I was amazed at the consistency of buzz about certain agencies from one event to another and how well it aligned with the trash-talk I've heard inside of various agencies. The lack of understanding by some non-creative agency parties about the challenges of managing clients and creative/tech deliverables was striking as well.

An agency's reputation is important to maintain. Here are just a few areas where buzz comes into play.
  • Hiring - In the current economic environment, agencies that are hiring have the upper hand. However, the best talent out there, especially those that have a stable gig, will still be applying even more scrutiny when considering whether or not to join a new shop.

  • Business Referrals - Media companies often influence clients' choices of what creative agencies to work with or, believe me, to stop working with.

  • Headhunters & Agency Recruiting Personnel- These guys hear it all. They get a regular insider's tour of agencies from the slew of talent they interact with. I've begged one of my long-term headhunter friends to write a book, I, and I'm sure others, would love to read it.

  • Third-Party & Publisher Preference - Guess which agencies 3rd party vendors like PointRoll, EyeBlaster and EyeWonder are going to partner with and feature in their case studies for their newest, high-functioning units? Publishers are well aware of which agencies deliver on time, and which deliver heartache.

  • Who's Got Your Back? - When the trash talk about your agency starts flying (usually behind your back), you want/need someone who knows your agency's and your work to chime in and support you.

I don't need to tell you that clients care very much about an agency's ability to deliver. Any agency evaluation report card, or feedback given by a client (especially those leading up to or following an account being put into review) consider agency efficiency and reliability very heavily.

PM's main mission is to ensure high-quality output that is delivered on-time, on-budget and on-spec. It's incumbent on you to not only execute on this and to form positive relationships with those who share the ecosystem with you. Obviously, this will help improve your ability to deliver together, but it will also improve your company's and your own reputation and your ability to thrive. I assure you, you will need it someday. As the Oracle of Omaha suggests:

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”

- Warren Buffet

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