Skip to main content
Industry Contributor 7 Jul 2022 - 4 min read

Five tips to avoid your agency being an expensive disaster (from an agency boss)

By John Vlasakakis - Co-founder, Next&Co

Partnering with the right agency is one of the most impactful decisions marketers can make. When both parties have their values and vision aligned, positive results are inevitable. Conversely, choosing the wrong agency can leave a brand feeling overcharged and underwhelmed. It’s time for better transparency, writes Next&Co founder John Vlasakakis.

In my 12 years’ experience running an agency, I’ve witnessed many brands partner with agencies who were not the right fit and did not deliver a positive return on investment. While it’s easy to be seduced by a slick pitch and an impressive track record, digging a little deeper when evaluating a potential partner could mean the difference between a successful campaign and an expensive disaster.

Here are my tips to ensure you entrust your business with only the best value agencies:

Meet the people you’ll be working with.

Never assume that the person who’s pitching is the one you’ll be working with ongoing. Some global agencies love to dazzle potential clients with senior muscle and managing directors, only to pull a bait and switch manoeuvres once the contract has been signed. Without confirming who’ll be managing your account, you may end up stuck with a fresh-out-of-uni newcomer with few capabilities and no commercial experience. Some agencies will even assign back of house representatives based outside Australia, which could significantly limit your ability to get in contact during business hours in a timely manner for urgent items. When evaluating an agency, ensure you’ll be working with senior talent who have the foresight to optimise your account strategy.

Understand the ownership structure and where profits are retained. 

Transparency in ownership and profit structures is one of the biggest hallmarks of a trustworthy agency. Some corporate owned international agencies will deceptively present themselves as local companies. This enables them to appeal to brands who wish to support their local community. I am consistently baffled at how many businesses claim to support local, while also appointing agencies who have their profits funnelled to France, the US or Japan. If your brand values supporting Australian owned and operated businesses, make sure those values are shared by your potential partner. This will ensure that your partnership will help stimulate our local economy.

Ask about staff retention, as well as learning and development opportunities.

Consistency is one of the key factors in a successful long-term partnership between brand and agency. Building a strong relationship with your account manager or campaign manager is critical to having a partner who can anticipate your needs. Some larger agencies have low retention rates and no plans in place to keep top talent, creating a vicious cycle where everyone is “just a number on the P&L”. When your account manager (or the teams supporting them) move on, large knowledge gaps are created. This kind of turbulence can have disastrous consequences for your campaign. Ensure you’re partnering with an agency who actively develops and retains their top talent.

Discover the vision and future growth plans of the agency

Evaluating the previous work and accomplishments of an agency is a sure fire way to see if your quality goals align, but make sure you consider the future as well. Is this a business content to cruise on their past achievements? Are they hungry to adapt to changing technologies and expand their offerings? Can they clearly explain where they hope to be in the next five years? Learning which direction an agency is heading will help you identify a business with solid leadership, and ensure you choose the partner best suited to your brand’s long-term vision.

Ensure their fee structure is transparent.

Have you ever requested a copy of the fee structure for a potential partner, only to discover you need some kind of enigma machine to decode its meaning? Complex fee structures which require their own mini document are designed to catch you out. Big agencies will hide unexpected fees and additional costs in ways that the average (hell, above average) Joe would never intuitively understand. If their fee structure can’t be clearly and concisely explained, it’s likely that there’s unfavourable cost or profit margin information being shielded from you.

At the end of the day, choosing the right agency partner for your brand means finding one aligned to your values and vision in as many ways as possible. Use this guide next time you’re evaluating agency bids to ensure you get the best return on your investment.

Share your reaction (and see how others voted)

Leave a comment (you must be logged in)

Be the first to comment

John Vlasakakis

Co-founder, Next&Co

Search Mi3 Articles

Make it personal

Join Mi3 to receive our weekly edition and personalise your experience