Just finished up a search for First Entertainment Credit Union.  Three solid agencies with lots of great experience.  Problem was…one was a rule breaker.

I always find it interesting how it is when you present the same Challenge Document for a final pitch presentation, you get very different responses.

I’m a big believer in busting out of the mold.  If I were an agency, I’d be the first one to push the limits and challenge the marketer’s way of thinking.

But the question one has to ask is, is completely busting the rules the best way to go?

Personally, I tend to think not.

We had an agency in the First Entertainment Credit Union search that completely broke the rules.  They didn’t follow any of the requirements we asked of the agencies to follow.

While their concept and strategy was interesting, the fact that they didn’t care, or didn’t listen, or whatever…they didn’t follow the outline that we had set up for all agencies was very disheartening.

The way I look at it (as a search consultant) is if you can’t listen now and you completely ignore what I’m telling you now, how will you operate when it really matters.

It’s the way I approach the review of RFPs, it’s the way I evaluate an agency’s performance in a Q&A/Chemistry call with a client.  If they can’t follow the rules (to some extent), then what are they going to do when they become a client? The same stuff?

So bottom line is this: while an agency might present some pretty compelling ideas, it doesn’t necessarily meant they are going to be a great partner.  If you ask an agency to share their thinking AND share their ideas for how they plan to bring their thinking to life – and all they do is the former, where does that leave you?

I love agencies that push the boundaries of civility.  But I don’t like agencies that disregard the requests of the marketing client.

Rule breakers can be good.  But agencies that ignore it altogether aren’t ones that will win the day.


Mark is a 30-year veteran of the consumer packaged goods, advertising, and marketing service industry. Mark started his career at DDB Needham in Chicago prior to earning his MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Business School at Northwestern where he majored in Marketing and Economics. Prior to starting RSW/US in 2005, Mark was General Manager for AcuPOLL, a global research consultancy. Sneider worked in Marketing for S.C. Johnson and KAO Brands. Sneider has been invited to speak at numerous Agency events and network conferences domestically and internationally including the 4A’s, Magnet, NAMA, TAAN, and MCAN. Sneider has been featured in prominent industry publications including Adweek, Media Post, e-Marketer, and Forbes. When not working (which often seems like not often), Mark likes to run miles, go to church, and just chill with a hard copy issue of Fast Company.