When in an agency search, it can be easy to get taken in by the flash and grandeur of a sexy agency presentation.

And it’s easy to find yourself loving an agency’s campaign because it’s clever, hip and cool, and/or brings a new contemporary look to your brand.

I’ve been in a few of these in my days and have tried to help marketing clients clearly assess the value of what an agency is putting in front of them.

At the end of the day, an agency’s idea…their campaign…is only as good as the smart insights and strategy that are built behind it.

Smart Ad Strategy

Sat in a final pitch presentation for a top 20 National Retailer yesterday.  The agency that presented did an excellent job of laddering up insights that they built out consumer, market, and competitive intelligence.

They brought their strategist to the table who did a solid job detailing the insights gleaned from each of these areas.  She outlined it so clearly that when the campaign ideas were presented, it made complete sense as to why they chose the directions they had selected.

I’ve been in pitch presentations where the one agency that chose to not create a fully fleshed out campaign idea won the assignment.  They won because only they presented their strategic platforms (in the form of what could be called image boards) based on insights gleaned.  In this case: the consumer, the brand, and the company.  They were up against two other agencies that presented some clearly knock-out campaigns, but when asked why they chose this direction or what insights they were built out of, nothing meaningful could be presented.

Any day…I’d take smart strategy and sound insights over pretty creative.

If you can develop a great set of foundational insights, then all will eventually flow from the brand into the hearts of the brand’s consumers.  Absent of this, the campaign will be as shallow as the insights it was built from (none).

So next time you’re in a final pitch presentation, ask yourself:

  1. Do they have a strategist present?
  2. Did they present their thinking and research upfront before the campaigns?
  3. And are the campaigns or campaign ideas clearly a ladder up from some smart intel gathering and insight unearthing by the agency?

If you can get to “yes” on all three of these questions, you’ll be in great shape with the agency and assuming price is right, you should hire them tomorrow!