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  • David Meikle

It’s all about the talent.

There is an inextricable correlation between an ad agency’s talent and the value the agency can create for their clients.

It’s the primary reason many of the older agencies had the names of their founders above the door or recognized by their initials. These figureheads like Bernbach, Ogilvy and Burnett were not just trying to appeal to new clients as their reputations grew, they were also beacons to the industry’s best talent. There isn’t a machine (yet) that can develop effective comms strategies or invent compelling advertising ideas so the better the people the better the work, the better the clients, the better the agency, the better the profits and so on.

However, not all talent is equal. And agency talent can be elusive and difficult to identify. There are those suited to particular business categories, those suited to different styles of client (think how different P&G is from Diesel), those who are challengers to their clients and those who are more compliant, those who can consistently write great ads, those who are more hit-and-miss and those who can develop steady, reliable ads that will achieve an acceptable Millward Brown Awareness Index score.

So if you’re an advertiser who wants the best available talent to grow your business by maximizing the return on your advertising investment, how do you get that talent? And how would you know if you had the best talent on your account?

In truth, it’s not always easy to know. It’s not just the biggest agencies that get the best talent. Although there are some that do, others that a much more variable spread of ability. There are also small agencies and start-ups that have incredible talent but more limited resources – so where do you start?

1. The Employer Brand

The first step is to assess your agency’s employer brand. Instead of just looking at their headcount, their clients and competencies across different disciplines, you can ask many other questions.

  • What is their L&D investment and strategy?

  • What are their staff turnover levels?

  • What is their maternity/paternity leave policy?

  • What evidence is there of diversity in both staff and management?

  • What is the office location and what are the facilities?

Size matters, too, but there are only a couple of really big agencies that can credibly say they have the best employer brands and the best talent in the business, and not every advertiser can work with them.

2. Make your account a priority.

Imagine you’re running an ad agency, who do you assign to which clients? As much as there is great talent and not so great, and there are also great clients and not-so-great clients. It stands to reason that as an agency CEO you will not assign your best people to your worst clients. Not only would it be business suicide but it’s unlikely that talent would stay for very long, or if they did that the client would be able to get great value from them.

There are two criteria advertisers can consider by which their accounts will be assigned talent. The first is attractiveness and the second is money.

So, how attractive is your account?

The challenge here is getting an honest answer to the question. If any client asked their agency how attractive their brand was, could they expect an honest answer? If they were a nightmare would they hear that from their agency or perhaps something more like “Your account is sometimes challenging, but we love your brand and we have our top people on your account”? Self-awareness is the challenge here. But brands could start by asking themselves a few questions:

Are we nice people to work with?

Are we grateful for good work and discretionary effort?

Do we collaborate or do we dictate?

Do we manage our stakeholders effectively?

Do we do what we say we’ll do (or do we routinely cancel projects and budgets?)

Are we the best advertiser in our category?

Second, how valuable is your account?

Do you pay in a way that allows the agency to profit from efficiency or do you pay by the reconciled hour?

Do you pay promptly?

Do you remunerate fairly for re-briefs and cancellations?

Does the agency have a minimum income guarantee?

The best advertisers (the ones that get the best talent, the best ads and the greatest return on investment) answer yes to many more of these questions than the advertisers who don’t. Their agencies routinely provide them with gorillas - advertising ideas that stop viewers in their tracks, inspire them, entertain them, give them goose bumps, make them FEEL something about the brand.

If that’s the kind of advertising your brand wants, maybe you need to find out more about How to Buy a Gorilla…

David Meikle

Author and Founder – How to Buy a Gorilla.

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