Media planning agency evaluation is not easy.  We understand our position in the client > service continuum and are always thrilled when clients trust us with important advertising decisions and resources.  Of course, the onus is on us to address our clients’  needs and objectives.  However, I believe client methods, actions and culture also play an important role in the quality and value of the work we deliver.  As agencies, we should be helping our clients to be GREAT clients!

Evaluating agency performance is is standard operating practice for marketers and advertisers. Remarkably, these reviews are not always reciprocal. We suggest agencies should be evaluating their clients with the same purpose and intensity as they themselves are evaluated. This would help to ensure the relationship, and its associated outcomes (revenue, profitability, mutual strategic purpose), are fully aligned.

I was inspired to write this blog when the Institute of Communications Agencies (ICA) launched the ICA Client of The Year Awards. The purpose of this recognition was to award clients for best in class partnerships and processes in working with their agency or agencies.

The ICA has developed a useful set of evaluation guidelines to support effective client-agency partnerships.  These criteria provide some great questions to include as part of a client review process.  Please note: I have edited the criteria to fit an “evaluation” context rather than an award entry.

        1. Does the client provide complete transparency and clarity regarding client-agency expectations? Does the client:
          • Create a strong brief and provide an accurate scope of work?
          • Work closely with the agency to communicate objectives, outcomes and expectations as they relate to all project plans and work flow?
          • Provide ongoing, open access to key decision makers (and influencers), to promote decisive and effective decision making?
        1. Is the client structured and organized for success? Does our client:
          • Enable the marketing function to exert influence throughout the client organization?
          • Create a culture of success and enables knowledgeable decision makers in the c-suite?
          • Demonstrate strong internal relationships between marketing, finance and sales/marketing?
          • Play a leadership role in client-agency team building to keep the relationship fresh and vital?
          • Takes a lead role in fostering and enabling collaboration between multi-agency teams?
          • Provide frequent feedback and evaluations with agency partners?
          • Minimize approval bureaucracy and supports clear procurement practices and processes?
        1. Is the client able to objectively and effectively evaluate campaign and agency performance? Does the client:
          • Use pre-determined KPI’s and real-time data aligned to organizational and specific business unit performance?
          • Provide a formal, clear statement of work / client-agency contract, including KPI’s?
          • Create  evaluation timelines aligned with campaign strategy and business unit performance and timing?
          • Engage with the agency to co-create timely and effective measurement tools?
        1. Does the client use research and data to create consumer insights to help produce effective work? Does the client:
          • Consistently use analytics and data tools to reinforce strategy and drive decisions?
          • Empower agency partners to obtain and utilize market/consumer data to support advertising decisions?
          • Clearly communicate relevant and timely results from internal data analytics to the agency?

When fully aligned, a mutually rewarding virtuous cycle is created! Agencies can do great work that addresses client objectives, be fairly compensated for that work, and be able to attract and keep people who do that great work.