Insight: What to Look for in an Agency “Intermediary*”

At a recent client introductory meeting the attending marketing procurement manager asked “what should we be looking for in an agency intermediary?”. We said that we have very strong views on the subject, and that any Procurement and Marketing team worth their salt should ask or look for the following things….

 Is the company really independent and impartial, or does it in some manner take money from agencies? Has the intermediary got any sort of subscription model for being on their website, agency paid-for listing service, pitch advisory service, or “lunch club” where agencies pay to attend? Then how can it be impartial and un-influenced when selecting agencies or negotiating on contract fees? If we were agency New Business Directors we’d be the first on the phone to say “We’ve paid you £x,ooo to be part of your service and we’ve only been on one pitch list this year…?” . Impossible, and not totally impartial to the pursuit of the client’s cause.

Do they do the Maths as well as the Music? We know that this is a people business and that it is much about ideas and strategies. But quantification is massively important. Are they happy working with figures, benchmarking rates and resources, knowing how to construct team and campaign costings? Do they have templates to do side by side, “apples with apples” comparisons of costed proposals? Have they worked in new Performance Marketing ad-tech markets, programmatic buying and in customer data engineering? If not, how can be you assured value for money, the quantified proof of numbers, or a future facing agency network and marketing vision…

Does great work result? Do they work for the kind of brands and brilliant marketing companies that you want to be in the company of or aspire to? Do continuous, great, and effective campaigns and communications come from processes that they have run? 90% of our pitches result in the recommended work (including media strategies) actually running.

Do they have the expertise working on complex multi-channel or multi-agency issues or multi-national marketing implementation? The future is multi-channel, continuous 24/7 engagement and from agencies working closely together, increasingly across borders. If the organisation looks silo’d by media channel or discipline then that’s how it will be delivered for you also. Work with people who truly have a multi-channel, best in world understanding of best practice and integrated agency models.

Have they worked client-side to deliver effective and complete marketing, or are they just career agency–luvvies?  We think it important that there is expertise in the company that has worked client-side, worked within a branded product or service marketing department, or delivered from the inside-out to know how a client works, and how it delivers marketing and sales across channels. Otherwise it’ll all be about what one of our clients described as “the colouring in”.

Ask versions of the questions above to any intermediary you visit and see if you are convinced of the answers…

* We don’t like the term “Intermediary” but often we are stuck with it and the marketing press tag us all with it in the sector. It smacks of some kind of pimp that wafts between agency and client offering little active or penetrating view or effort. This is far from the truth – we actively manage and bite ankles in the process (where necessary) to get the best result possible. The outcome is always enduring relationships and great integrated work – “I am Nikon”, the Three “Pony”, “I <oakleaf> National Trust” are all recent campaigns that have recently directly come from pitch processes run by Agency Insight.


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