Letters From Stan

Hire an Agency, Not a Campaign

Stan Richards

Dear Melissa,

“Hire an agency, not a campaign.” You’ve heard me say this many times, I’m sure. In every final new business presentation, when I have the opportunity, I pass along those words of advice to the client.

Do they listen?

Well, in general, it’s hard to tell. In reflecting on our wins in 2015, the clients hired both of us – the agency and the campaign. For Cardinal Health, we went right into production on the internal marketing materials based on the brand idea we presented in the final presentation. For America’s Best (one of the retail brands entrusted to us by National Vision), we launched the campaign they fell in love with, and not a word of copy was changed in any of the key executions.

But I think, first and foremost, they actually did hire an agency. They hired people they felt they could trust, people they could see themselves working with every day, people they had good chemistry with throughout the process. The right campaign was a bit of luck – a product of a good briefing and good input from the client combined with good listening and good instincts from us. That won’t happen every time.

In our second-to-last presentation of the year, it didn’t. While I was proud of the work we presented, the client was less than enamored. They were kind with their criticism, but they were direct – something we always appreciate after putting in all the work that’s required to get to a final presentation. You try, but you don’t always get it right.

But they hired us. They hired us because of the way they felt about us from day one. They hired us because they admired the work we do for our other clients and they felt that, together, we’d do that type of work for them. And yes, my final words to the CEO were, “Hire an agency, not a campaign.” She and her team did just that.

In our last presentation right before Christmas, I used those same final words with the company’s CEO. We won’t know until sometime this month whether he’ll heed that advice. And if he does, there’s no guaranteeing it will be us. But if it is us, wouldn’t it be nice if they hire an agency and a campaign? That would be a terrific start to what promises to be a very good year.