Client Led Digital Agency Reviews

While the number of agency reviews has doubled in the last five years, digital agency reviews have increased five-fold. More than half the time clients conduct digital reviews without a qualified third party consultant, going it alone in relatively unchartered territory.

The digital space is complicated.  The reasons there are now many more digital reviews are several:

  • Not all general agencies have the necessary digital capabilities
  • The specialized expertise in each area requires several digital agencies
  • The major agency holding companies may not have the best of breed in each digital category
  • Specific digital agencies may not have all the capabilities that are necessary for each client
  • There are also creative digital agencies, media digital agencies and, full service digital agencies practicing in this space

In addition, the complexities of search, mobile, video and social require integration, which makes it even more difficult for clients to make the right selections acting alone without knowledgeable, independent advice.


One of the main reasons given for searching without a qualified advisor has been saving the consultant fee. Particularly because the media spend in digital is far less than the billing for traditional media and, as a percentage of so called “savings”, it is hard to justify. Some client organizations have also mandated that Procurement take on the role of managing agency reviews, without outside assistance.  This reasoning is difficult to understand because the expertise is usually more limited and costs for in-house marketing and procurement people assigned to the task in time and resources can actually be more than using an outside advisor when all considerations are factored in.

The Cost of a Review
It generally takes an average of 8-12 weeks to conduct a review properly. During that time members of the client Marketing, Procurement, Management and Financial staffs will be engaged in the search to varying degrees. This Review Team will prepare agency screening specs, an RFI, a scope of work and briefing, evaluation scorecards, staffing and compensation forms and a challenge for the final presentation.  They will choreograph the two to three months of activities, meet with agencies to review credentials, hold strategic meetings and con calls, attend final presentations, review staffing and compensation proposals, manage the public relations, and select a winner.  Then they will oversee an orderly transition and set up a system to monitor a continuing productive relationship and ensure that digital campaigns are integrated with offline marketing communications.

A total in-house search would cost a client substantially in staff time plus the costs of travel, lodging and resource materials.  While Review Teams are still involved when a consultant is engaged, their costs are significantly lowered (usually more than off-setting the consultant’s fee), while gaining the benefit of the search consultant’s insight, orchestration and expertise.

If conducting a search would generally cost at least as much for an advertiser in-house team to undertake it alone and so much money is at stake in the marketplace, doesn’t it make sense to engage a consultant to provide impartial third party knowledge and information, marketplace benchmarks and likely savings in time and money?

Drexler/Fajen & Partners

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