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Blog. When you evaluate your creative advertising agency what matters most, fees or creativity?

Some thoughts on why creativity matters most in advertising agency selection.

Posted by Liam Farrell

As the title might imply, a creative advertising agency and their client’s accountant might not always see the brand’s marketing issue from the same end of the telescope. Agencies have a tendency to want to deliver big budget ideas and achieve great results where as accountants want to spend as little as possible and avoid unnecessary risks. This can be especially true in a troubled economy or a recession. So who is right and what is the best approach to selecting your creative marketing agency? Here are a few thoughts from our side of the street… enjoy!

With creative companies out performing their fellow brands by some 228% it’s clear who the winners are. So how can we bring accountants and other marketing naysayers onside with an agency’s big budget ideas and bold vision for where a client’s brand can go?

Reviewing submissions from a creative advertising agency

The other day we turned down the opportunity to work on an RFP from a major oil firm because the company was only giving the shortlisted ‘creative’ agencies a single week to ‘do their magic’. Plus only 10% of the review’s weighting was on the creative work while 60% was on cost. Essentially their firm’s procurement was accountancy-led and not focused on employing the strategic benefits of creative thinking. The money men were setting the firm’s agenda. Now while we love accountants we also appreciate that they are focused on accounting for the past market performance of a brand whereas CEOs and agencies are focused on the future. Countless examples show that letting the former dictate the function of the latter ends in poor brand performance and lower ROE (return on equity). 

Why the cheapest advertising agency is rarely the best choice

Typically accountant-led firms will try and force their marketing teams to go for the cheapest agency. Makes sense right? Or does it? Let’s consider the issue through the analogies of a car and a suit. Your accountant will most likely drive a nice car, if he is doing well it will most likely be a status symbol like a Merc, BMW or Lexus. When asked why they drive this car and not say a perfectly utilitarian Yaris they will almost always say “it is a better car”. But both BMW and Yaris have four wheels and doors, an engine and a steering wheel and both serve the same purpose of transporting their passengers from A to B. So why can an accountant have one set of value principles when it comes to their choice of car an another for agency selection? Especially as his choice of car does nothing to improve the performance of his accounting?

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The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten
Benjamin Franklin

 A creative advertising agency will give you the best trade dress for your brand’s ’daily customer interviews’

Let’s do a quick reframe for our friends in the accounts department. If we reconsider marketing communication (your web, brochure etc) as the business dress of your firm and every day your firm is being interviewed by prospective customers who have to decide whether they should or shouldn’t buy your wares. What are you going to wear to that interview? Your cheap, slightly worn suit or that Armani three piece you wear on special occasions? It’s an easy answer right? Fact is you are going to dress to impress in the finest, sharpest threads you can find. So why is it any different for your business? Why is going for the cheapest marketing a good idea when the marketing is your firms trade dress?

Greater creativity encourages customers to spend more

Now let’s think about the purchase decisions for that car and suit. Was the determining factor mostly price or was it the creativity (form and function) of the Amani suit and 5 Series which influenced the purchaser to find the money? If the better vehicle was over twice the price of a similarly functioning vehicle and yet still came out the winner some other factor must be at work. The factor in question is creativity. The creativity of the car designer was highly valued and was the influential factor in the decision making. In fact the creativity of the car designer so so highly valued even the accountant over came his usual reticence towards spending money to go over his typically utilitarian budget to afford the more creative and luxurious car.

Rethink the function of your creative advertising agency

The ability of creativity to persuade customers to buy what they ‘want’ instead of satisfying their ‘need’ isn’t a phenomena that happens solely in the automotive sector, this is a truism of every sector. Better design and more creative marketing convinces people to find more money to spend than they would rationally consider. Great creative work moves people emotionally and it can help you move your consumers the same way. When we think of marketing in such terms it’s easier to understand why pricing should be weighted low (10%) and creativity high (60%). Emotion and Creativity rule over Logical and Utilitarian every time. So next time you let an accountant set the terms of your RFP, just consider this; will the cheap suit help or hinder you getting that dream job and why are you driving a Lexus, Merc or Beamer when a Hyundai gets you there for less?

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