In a recent article in AdAge, traditional search consultants visiting the Mirren Business conference suggested that the business of the agency search has become such a cluster with the growing involvement of procurement groups.

I couldn’t agree more.  Finding an agency need to go beyond looking at the numbers.  It involves looking at the agency’s thinking and ability to operate strategically and their capabilities and energy that they can bring to your specific business needs.  Tough to put a number on this intellectual property.

But all that said, while having procurement in the mix isn’t a good thing, I don’t think traditional agency search firms can simply sit back and lay blame on the companies without really looking in the mirror themselves.

Frankly I think some of the blame has to be placed on traditional agency search firms for forcing the hand of companies to move in this direction.

The big tickets that traditional agency search firms used to (and still do to a large extent) charge Marketers isn’t fully justified.   It’s no wonder that procurement groups took notice and started to not only nickel and dime agencies, but also pit traditional agency search firms up against each other to vie for the search business.

The high costs agency search firms charge is simply not justified.  This is particularly true given the group of agencies that they typically look at is almost always the same.  How tough is it really to pull the DDB’s, the Weiden’s, the Y&R’s out of the hat to create a consideration set for a major CPG client looking for a new firm?

I know that there’s a good deal of work that goes into the search, but having managed some significant searches ourselves (e.g. Jack-in-the-Box, Nissan Leaf, Aspen Dental, Legrand, Citrix), I know that the bulk of the effort should center on finding firms that provide a solid creative and strategic range of options for the client to consider.

I’m not sure that this is the way traditional search firms operate.

At Mirren, there were 100’s of agencies that sat longingly hoping for some insight into how to best get on the radar of traditional consultants.  They walked away with little beyond “let us know what you’re doing” – and then proceeded to talk about all their big searches with big agencies that they’ve represented.

So while procurement is certainly no place for an agency search, some of the blame needs to rest on the group that drove it all there – the traditional search consultants themselves.