Thoughts on the new 4As/ANA agency search process (part one)

OK. So yours truly took a look at the new whitepaper offering up how-to-search guidelines. Recall this was published earlier this week by the Association of National Advertisers and the 4As and is available on the 4As website at no cost. The headline: you should absolutely download this and absorb it. It’s written well, has some good best practices thinking in it, and can provide value to both sides of the relationship. Good stuff. Well timed, also. Includes some handy inside baseball suggestions that can make for a better, more productive search process.

For what it’s worth, here are a couple of other observations on the front half of the document – guidelines for clients.

  • Before you even get to the whitepaper, I appreciate the walk-up / description on the 4As site. Some handy talk-points and understanding of recent new business trends.
  • Overall, you have to applaud that the authors suggest process shortcuts. The message is sprinkled throughout the document. These ideas will save agencies many, many soft and hard dollars of pitch investment. And bring benefits to clients, too!
  • Page three features some smart questions clients should ask themselves before they consider the review. Handy for agencies looking to head off a potential review with an existing client.
  • There’s a bullet point on page four that lays out a few options for the search approach. Again, this doesn’t always have to be a full-blown pitch. The whitepaper, though, begs a table that outlines pros and cons of different approaches.
  • Page six features a list of potential sources for clients to use to pull together the list of agency invitees. The list is not complete, nor is it all consistent (the geography point does not match the others), but very helpful for smart agencies seeking prospecting input. (This begs another post from yours truly).
  • There’s an inherent bias towards big agencies and clients, but that is understandable as bigger companies pay bigger member fees to their respective organizations. So, if you’re at a smaller shop, this download is still worth your time.
  • Some nice thoughts on what clients should look for when identifying a cultural fit between the companies.
  • Some great resources listed in Appendix 1. Mish mish on you, ANA, for mentioning your awesome link, but making the information available to members only.
  • In the “RFP” or semi-finalist round, there’s some terrific stuff for folks to think about. The reader is warned about a few jedi mind tricks some agencies may be playing (agency creative examples vs. staff creative samples, show pony presenters, etc.)
  • A surprising bit of “how to” for the theater behind the presentations (understanding the room specs, AV, early access, and the like. Reminds me of the good ol’ days from FCB, when we had home game and away game templates for advance teams to understand that kinda stuff so it wouldn’t screw the agency.
  • Excellent advice for clients to have a “grounding” meeting before agencies present in finals to review team perceptions.
  • The format is different than past “how-to search” docs. Short, bullet point-type how to style that reflects modern times.
  • And a bunch of other suggestions that are handy for agencies to understand and, frankly, leverage in their new business pursuits.

You would read more here, but let’s save other observations for a part two. Or, read this little bit on what this whitepaper could mean for search consultants.

Then again, take a look at the doc and share your perspectives! Thanks.