“Mad Men” fans have a skewed view of what happens in an ad agency. The hard-drinking days of Madison Avenue might be history, but the show has much of America believing that today’s great campaigns still come from lots of whiskey and frequent, lucky bolts of inspiration. As the show’s Don Draper character would no-doubt argue, creativity is key in advertising. However, success in the modern advertising era also hinges on measurement and data-driven decision making.
Advertising is expensive, and brands need to measure their returns on investment in order to justify their spending. That is both more complicated and less so today than the real-life Mad men of the 1960s would ever have fathomed. On the one hand, prospects interact with advertising on far more platforms than they did two or three generations ago. A campaign now needs to prove its efficacy not just in print, on TV and on the radio, but also online and via mobile devices. And yet, agencies can harness sophisticated technology to analyze how those platforms are performing and advise clients which outlets deserve more of their ad spend and which deserve less. That information can have significant impact on ROI, and agencies that aren’t providing it are only doing half their jobs.
As brands evaluate potential agency partners, this question of measurement needs to play a prominent role in the request-for-proposal process. The RFP, as always, should ask about creative teams and approaches to campaign ideation. But companies also need to gather information about agencies’ measurement strategies and optimization partners, as well, if they are to end up with agencies that can do more than just create attention-grabbing creative. Agencies also have to also prove they’re capable of driving measurable sales results in a sustainable, ROI-positive way.
So what questions should brands ask of prospective agency partners? The following should be in every RFP:
1. How do you measure your success?
2. How do you account for cross-channel influence and ensure different departments don’t claim credit for the same conversions?
3. How do you track the cause-and-effect relationship between creative, lead generation and ultimate conversion?
4. Do you work with a marketing optimization partner? What kinds of results has that partner delivered to clients?
5. How will you help my brand understand how our prospects interact with online and offline parts of the campaign?
6. Are you able to measure data sets across multiple devices? If so, how will you share that information with us so we can make better decisions about budget allocation?
7. Which types of attribution do you employ for determining cross-channel influence and advising clients about strategic media mix decisions?
8. Can your agency deliver demand-side platform (DSP) integration to support real-time bidding with attribution information?
9. Do your employees accept remuneration from media publishers? Does your agency make any money marking up the media you buy for me?
10. How do you make sure your account reps are focused on client objectives?
Creative services are the cornerstone of most advertising agencies, but the modern marketing partner needs to give equal weight to the technological, analytical aspects as well. Solid attribution capability is key to giving clients what they need to make trustworthy decisions about where they spend their budgets. The RFP is the best place to determine whether or not a potential agency partner is equipped to advise brands on more than just creative and media buying. Companies have a long list of marketing channels available to them today – far more than in Don Draper’s fictional time. Any agency a brand chooses to work with needs to be ready to show which combination of touchpoints leads to conversion, so clients can get the ROI they need from campaign investments.
Jeff Zwelling is co-founder and CEO of Convertro, which provides marketers and agencies with cross-channel analytics, insights and recommendations to monitor and optimize marketing strategies.