When Holsten UK called its ad agency review in February, it was
received in two ways. Some people thought that since Holsten had been
with GGT (thereafter TBWA Simons Palmer) for 22 years, it was probably
time for a change. Others were surprised that one of the longest
client/agency relationships was being rocked.
Holsten called the review with the single-minded objective of ensuring
that it held on to the best partner (we treat agencies as an extension
of the brand team rather than suppliers) with whom to continue building
the long-term equity of Holsten brands.
A brief was written, which was circulated and signed off by all those
who would be involved in the decision-making process. Clear,
quantifiable evaluation criteria were set at the start of the process,
as was a week-by-week time plan. All were essential for ensuring the
sensitive management of the agencies involved and, as we moved through
the process, sound decision-making by the Holsten team.
We made it clear at the start that we didn’t just want to see ads that
would win the pitch. We split the pitch into strategic presentations
and, three weeks later, the creative presentations. We were looking for
sustainable ideas that could run through the line. To make sure this
happened we asked the agencies to ensure that the creative idea could
work just as well on a beer mat or a supermarket shelf talker as it
could in a TV ad. This was one of our key evaluation criteria and it
helped us decide how big each creative idea was to be.
For an incumbent agency, its key strength is also its potential Achilles
heel: is experience stronger than the baggage of the past or is the
baggage leverageable experience?
The key thing we did was try to keep everyone, including the incumbent,
on a level playing field by having the same number of meetings with each
agency during the pitch process. When we moved to consumer research,
each agency was allowed to showcase its idea in the way it felt gave it
the best chance - via an independent research agency that two out of the
three had recommended.
No agency was allowed to attend the consumer groups, for obvious
I believe that too many marketers call reviews of agencies because they
want to make their mark and don’t try to work things out. If you are in
a relationship, you don’t dump your partner just because you can’t agree
on whether to go for a curry or a Chinese. Throughout the pitch process
we kept reviewing what was important to Holsten and who was fulfilling
it. The key was to remain as objective as possible and not let emotions
cloud the issues.
At the end of the process, TBWA retained the business, which, for many,
was a surprise. However, we have come out the other side stronger than
when we went in. The agency has made some changes to its team to ensure
renewed vitality and Holsten is now 100 per cent committed to them. We
are all a little wiser, a little sharper and a lot more focused than we
were four months ago at the beginning of the review.
Have your say at www.campaignlive.com on channel 4.