Does your agency slow you down?

Posted by: Steve Gardner
Thu 16 Dec 2010 12:12 p.m.

Tags: advertising, agencies, agility, cablevision, fast, holding companies, lustgarten, speed, speed-to-market, verizon

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I have yet to meet the client who says, "Gee, my business is moving so much more slowly than it used to."

Today, speed-to-market is a vital competitive weapon. Clients who can move with extreme speed and agility can outmaneuver slower, more process-laden competitors.

Most interesting? Many clients tell us that one of the biggest inhibitors to their own speed-to-market is the glacial pace at which most traditional agencies work. It used to be that the clients were slow, bureaucratic, cumbersome, and slowed by layers of approval cycles. Now, it's the agencies.

Why can't big agencies move quickly? It's not that they don't want to. It's much more a matter of organization, structure, and the overriding demand to optimize profit. (That would be theirs, not their clients').

Start with the well understood fact that when agencies suffer a profit squeeze, they don't simply eliminate headcount – they cost-reduce the salary of the people who remain (somebody has to be there to bill those hourly charges!). As such, the agencies are filled with junior people. As all those senior people dribble out the door, wave good-bye to continuity, expertise, historical knowledge, and experience… all the things that could actually enable agencies to move quickly.

Junior people are rarely empowered to act without approvals. So your vital project is inevitably slotted into the agency's log-jam of an internal review process. Unless you happen to be Pepsi or Verizon, you may not be at the front of that queue. And you wonder why it takes a week for your junior copywriter to determine whether the copy revision you've requested is deemed worthy by the agency creative director.

We work differently. Here, skilled, knowledgeable people work directly with clients. They are empowered to act and to move as quickly as you need them to move.

There is no bureaucracy here, no complicated approval process. Experienced people get to answers faster, and get it right the first time – not the fifth time. Experienced, empowered people can make real time decisions in meetings.

We've had instances where we've gone from being informed of the need for an ad to releasing to publications within four hours.

A short while ago, an A-list celebrity offered to do a PSA for our Lustgarten pro bono client. The only catch: we had to put together a full television shoot using all pro-bono suppliers in 48 hours. (We actually completed it in 24 hours).

Our Cablevision client thrives in one of the most intensely competitive industries in business today, doing battle every day against Verizon, one of the biggest ad spenders in the world today. Speed is one of our greatest advantages. In one recent scenario, we were informed of the need for a major competitive initiative on a Monday. By Wednesday, the agency presented TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor executions that were ready to go in-market within two weeks of presentation. We ended up producing four TV spots, one radio spot, four mallscapes, four car cards on LIRR, and two print executions.

In today's world, speed-to-market is not a "nice to have," nor is it a rare privilege to be invoked only by a legitimate Def Con 5 crisis. It is a way of relentlessly keeping an upper hand in the routine marketing battles. Can your agency work as fast as you do?