Recently, the agency search world has felt rumblings of an unfortunate trend: some agency pitches are becoming an arms race to see who can cut the most cost, rather than who makes the best fit for the client.

Cost

These rumblings continued a few days ago, as I read an article in Digiday about a GSK search last year where saving money quickly revealed itself as a primary goal.

As the search progressed, discussions shifted further away from a conversation about expertise and fit to one where the finalist agencies were asked to present to the client procurement team “an overview of the savings they could make,” according to an anonymous executive from one of the agencies.

The growing presence of procurement in an agency search may sound sensible on the surface, but in almost all cases it simply serves to treat agencies as a commodity, another item on the ledger.

In reality, of course, your next agency search should lead you to a valuable, long-term business partnership – not a cost-cutting measure positioned to just get the job done cheaply.

Agencies will chase the criteria you give them.

Making price a determining factor will lead your search candidates to make unrealistic promises and cut corners wherever possible to deliver a cheap solution, rather than an effective one.

Cost is Cheap

One huge factor for this focus on cost as a search factor is the ease with which cost can be measured.

Change may be on the horizon however.  In our latest RSW/AgencySearch New Year Outlook survey, 70% of agencies viewed data & analytics as “highly important” to offer clients in the year to come, and nearly as many specifically citing digital ROI as either “somewhat” or “extremely” important to measure.

As agencies and marketers alike gain more clarity into the ROI of digital engagement, we may see a shift back toward these business KPIs, as opposed to simple cost.

Of course, like just about everything in business, cost will always play a factor in these decisions. But when it takes center stage, overshadowing things like expertise, experience, and transparency, are you still going to come out with the best possible partner for your business?

It’s possible, but my guess would be no.

We don’t want cost to keep you from your next agency partner, which is why we conduct our searches at NO (or a very low) cost to the marketer (depending on how you decide to work with us).

Interested? Give us a call (513) 559-3101 or drop us a line (msneider@rswagencysearch.com) at to start your next search, or simply to learn more about our approach to the agency search process.