Two huge developments in the last week; the Coca Cola account moving to Lodestar UM and the Reliance Communications account moving to Grey. As in movements such as these, you have big winners and big losers. The winners will, undoubtedly, rejoice. The losers will not. While the winners will not care too much about why, precisely, they were awarded the account, the losers will. Which is the point of this post. Increasingly, we see more and more brands calling for ‘reviews’, which is a shitty euphemism for pitches. Somewhere, the review hazily transforms itself into a pitch where the incumbents have to defend themselves. And, one fine morning, the client announces that the account moves to another agency – and the incumbent is never quite sure why it’s happened. If it is a clear case of commercial terms, the loss, perhaps, is easier to deal with. It’s when the decision is based on a whole lot of undefined and unspecified reasons that one finds it difficult to accept. And it’s painful. It’s painful for all who worked on the account. Introspection leads one to try and figure out who screwed up, who was the weak link, who dropped the ball. Often, this prognosis is way off the mark. It’s getting worse as brand managers have shorter and shorter objectives in mind, and the decision to change agencies is often based on a pressing tactical need than on a long-term objective. The trend suggests that the average tenure of the agency-brand relationship is shrinking – and that’s not good for the business. With uncertainty being the only certainty, how does one manage the talent (and other resource) requirements? Do you build for the short-term, medium-term or long-term? If you build for the long-term, will shareholders stay patient during the dry months or years? The business imperatives will not change. Clients will continue to flirt and shareholders will continue to demand periodic rewards. The only thing that agencies can do is to spend more time understanding the needs of he client, the state of happiness with the agency, the state of satisfaction on defined (and undefined) key result areas. The objective must be to ensure that reviews remain reviews. Do not wait for your client to threaten to transform the review into a pitch – because you did not bother creating internal checks, balances and systems to measure and monitor client satisfaction levels. It’ll be a hell of a lot easier to create these than to keep defending your accounts.
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