Just finished up a search for a tourism/destination client and had a number of agencies that were quite the specialist.  They had solid pedigrees in the tourism/travel space.

About a year ago, managed a search for a hospital in Michigan and had a number of agencies that had solid pedigrees in the hospital/healthcare space.IMG_6002

One amazing thing happened in both searches.  In both cases, the agencies that were “all-in” specialists performed near the bottom of the rung in performance among all the agencies.

In both cases two things happened.

It was almost as if they had lost interest in what they were doing.  I know repetition can be boring and dangerous.  Carpel tunnel can set in – both of the body and mind.  Boredom, drudgery, sameness all are likely emotions that run wild in situations where you do the same thing over and over.

In both cases, energy levels for the “all-in” agencies was noticeably low.

The team wasn’t all that cohesive.  The enthusiasm for  what was being presented was only so-so.  And there was even a bit of dissent between team members as the presentation was unfolding.  Not good.

The other common thread was what the marketers saw.

In both cases, the campaigns presented looked as if they had been pulled off the shelf and the new client’s name had been dropped in.  No new thinking, no grounded strategy, nothing unique to the client’s market or situation or challenge.  Just a lot of same looking ads.

Pretty beaches.  Pretty patients.  Smiling doctors.  Smiling island residents.  Sunny skies.  Better health.

So while a good dose of category experience can be a darn good thing…so can perspective beyond the space your agency operates.  Too much of one thing can tire one.

So what does this mean for you the marketer?

Don’t get too hung up on finding firms that only have experience in your space.

Challenge those agencies that do only possess your category experience.  Find out about what they’ve shared with you is unique to your world.

And ask them why an “all-in” agency is better than one that isn’t.  I did this in the Cayman search and the agency told me why being NOT all-in isn’t a good thing.  “So why do we have you here again?”


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.