Ad Agency


Alright, that’s not entirely true, but it is one of the four takeaways Sean Carton came away with from our ad agency new business survey (Client’s Look Ahead at Agencies) in his ClickZ article, Clients: The Mysterious Creature.

Sean  does a nice job filtering out key findings from our survey in his article, Clients: The Mysterious Creature.

If you’re trying to bring in new business for your agency or that person reports to you, these four takeaways are well worth reading:

1. Clients aren’t all that happy with their primary ad agency.

If you think that your relationship with your client is a good one, you may want to think a little harder. RSW/US found that only 44 percent of marketers were “happy” with their primary agency. However, even though the majority didn’t report blissful togetherness with who they were with, more than half (55 percent) said that they’d go with the same agency again if the account came up for review. Perhaps the unknown is more frightening than who they know?

2. Marketers don’t think that traditional agencies know digital (but they wish they did).

If you ever want to turn a friendly inter-agency conversation into a shouting match, all you have to do is bring up the “digital vs. traditional agency” question. Depending on how much expense-account booze has been consumed, it may not be long before shouts of “dinosaur!” and “whippersnapper!” fill the room. I don’t know about you, but at this point I usually find it best to grab my drink and find a group of outlaw bikers to hang out with…you know, a safer group.

It may be a stereotype that “traditional” full-service agencies aren’t good at digital, but it’s one that clients believe, too. The survey found that a mere 18 percent of marketers felt that full-service agencies have solid digital skills…a number that’s actually down from 22 percent in 2010. On the other hand, 29 percent of marketers surveyed felt that digital agencies had solid traditional advertising skills.

3. Who you are, who you know, and when you call matter the most when it comes to getting on “the list” during an ad agency search.

If you do new business for your agency, you know that getting on the list of potential firms is more than half the battle when it comes to winning new business. However, even though all of us who fight these battles on a daily basis have our own theories about how to get on “the list,” (mine involve phases of the moon and observing the behavior of cats) trying to figure out why one agency got the call to participate and another agency didn’t seems like a black art. According to the RWS/US survey it’s mainly a matter of fit, networking, and timing.

Amazingly, 29 percent of respondents cited “quality and content of [agency] web site” as a major factor. Even more amazingly (and a finding that’ll certainly irk creatives), only 10 percent reported that “awards won” by an agency factored into their decision process.

4. Nobody cares about your ad agency.

OK. Maybe that was a tad harsh. But when it comes to what makes a difference in pitches and winning the business, the clients who responded to the survey were pretty clear: know your prospect, understand their market, offer creative solutions, and don’t talk about yourself too much.

When it comes to the pitch, the message is clear: clients want to know that you get them. When asked “what aspects during the impression helped you decide,” 77 percent reported “understanding your [the clients’] market” as central to the decision. Creative came in second, with 72 percent citing it as a major factor. Other important factors included “understanding your [the clients’] company direction” (63 percent) and “offering something fresh and new” (60 percent)…both arguably variations of understanding the client and presenting great creative.

Thanks to Sean and Anna Maria at Clickz for permission to use the article excerpts.

I'm the VP of Sales at RSW/US. We specialize in working with services firms to help drive and close new business-if you need help with that, email me at What I actually do: drive sales efforts to bring ad agencies and services firms on board with RSW, create content around successful new business tactics and help drive RSW/US marketing objectives, including social media channels, blog content, webinars, video and speaking engagements. Dig it.