Agency search consultants can serve a great purpose.

They save marketers time by managing the search process.  They tend to have a better view of the best-in-class agencies that can best serve the business and marketing needs of their clients.  And they help keep the marketer “shielded” from what can be incessant badgering by marketing agencies.


The majority of agency search consultants are paid like any other consultant…and at times the fees can be rather high – which puts many marketers’ use of consultants out of reach.  In our most recent New Year Outlook Survey, only 16% of marketers stated that they had used a search consultant in the past.

The challenges with the traditional agency search consultant model is that the agency search consultant is beholden to the marketer.

This can slightly taint the process enough to make for a less than perfect search.

I know this first hand having recently worked for a client in a manner typical of traditional agency search consultants.  I was hired by the marketer and had to be there to answer to the marketer given they were the one’s paying me.

While the integrity of this particular search was completely maintained, I could feel a bit of pressure that could alter the way an agency search consultant thinks about the search that he/she is running.  You want to please the marketer (in ways other than just finding them great agencies).  They make requests that one might otherwise push back on – but because they’re writing the check, there is a tendency to question the move based on “political” reasons.

When I started RSW/AgencySearch, we recognized this (among other things) as potential problems with traditional agency search consultants. We wanted to put ourselves in a more neutral position – where we were there to not only serve the marketer in the best possible way, but also there to serve the agencies and help them through the process in a fair and equitable manner.

We determined the only way to do this is to make no one pay anything during the search…and only take our commission from the winning agency (not the marketer).  While this is clearly an unconventional way of managing a search, the acceptance of our model has been widespread.  Marketers like Labatt, Mercy Health, Roundy’s, Nissan, and Jack-in-the-Box (among others) have brought us on board to help them find new agencies.

And only recently have the major networks joined the majority of the agencies we speak with – accepting our model as fair and equitable – allowing the likes of DDB, Y&R, and JWT to participate in searches.

What does this mean for you, the Marketer?

If you’re up to your ears in marketing stuff and feel you have a need for a new marketing agency, consider using an agency search consultant.  They can be of great help.

And if you decide to use an agency search consultant, make sure that whomever you use, you challenge and question the process to make certain you’re getting the best possible look at agencies and doing it in a way that is fair, equitable, and serving your best interest as a marketer.