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How to appoint...

By The Drum | Administrator

February 12, 2003 | 5 min read

So you’re a marketer and you’ve just read about how valuable some of your contemporaries consider new media. Grudgingly you admit that there might be a more efficient way of communicating with your target market than by flooding their mailboxes with hundreds of generic mailers and that maybe, just maybe, the website designed by your son three years ago isn’t conveying the best impression of your company. It could be time to call in an expert.

Looking for a new media agency, particularly if you haven’t got much experience in the sector, can be a daunting task. With so many web designers claiming to be ‘online consultants’ and ‘web and multimedia experts’ the seemingly endless list of potential agencies can be intimidating. In order to make the most of the opportunities presented by new media it’s important that you find someone who can converse on a marketing level as well as a technological one. After all, marketing is the whole point in this, isn’t it?

Sara Joyce, new media and brand development manager at Manchester Airport, recommends that the first thing anybody should ever do when hunting for a new media agency is get a firm idea of what it is you are looking for. She says: “You should understand your requirements and how you wish to use new media for business benefit. You have to ask yourself: ‘what will be the key function(s) of our agency?’”

Next is finding out which agencies you should talk to. “Look around and see what your options are,” advises Laura Rigg, managing director of Exposure Entertainment. “Find out what businesses are in the area, because it’s really important that you can go down and talk face-to-face instead of just over the phone. Because we work in the music industry I looked up the Music Industry Manual for agencies that specialise in the sector. I also asked for references from people I know and searched over the web.”

Once your contact list is drawn up and you’ve seen the portfolios the ugly issue of the pitch will rear its head. As marketers across the land well know, pitching is seen by many advertising, design and media agencies as unfair and giving away their hard-brainstormed creative ideas for free. When it comes to new media, however, the pitch is still seen as the best way to appoint an agency. The term ‘new media’ is so all-encompassing that a pitch is the only way to be sure you know what you’re getting.

Lou Cordwell, managing director of Magnetic North, says: “I think that for many clients, organising a new media pitch can often be a complex and confusing process, in many ways more so than with any traditional agency pitches.

“The decision is made more difficult for clients by a number of factors. First, the volume of new media agencies out there, although we’ve steadily seen this shake down over the last 18 months or so as a natural part of the new media industry’s growing up process. Second, the diversity of organisations that fall under the ‘new media agency’ banner. Another key factor is the small number of these interactive agencies that have managed to develop themselves as distinct brands in their own right, partly because the industry needs more time and partly because many don’t have the focus or skills to do this.

“Hopefully over time this will become a more ‘pain free’ process as clients become more experienced in digital media and in managing the interactive pitch process.”

Clearly the pitch itself is a crucial stage in your selection process. But needless to say it is also of crucial importance to know what to look for from your presenting agencies.

Joyce advises: “You should look at the quality and content of their submissions, and whether they demonstrate detailed methodology and approach. It’s also important that they show an awareness of, and have the ability to apply, developments in technology and digital media. They should be able to clearly show you how new media will contribute to your business objectives and have an understanding of branding and brand development and how this can be achieved using new media.

“I would also make sure that you know how your account will be handled. What size is the team? Are they all of a similar quality? Question their relationships with their service providers and, crucially, their experience.”

As with appointing any agency it’s obviously important that there is a clear line of communication between yourselves and the agency. Making sure that they understand your business will help them to construct the best online solution.

“Communication along the line is key to making the most of the relationship,” states Rigg. “That you are able to convey your ideas to them and that they understand what you want. It helps to see examples of what they’ve done before, but it’s all about finding someone who will listen to you and not just give you what they want.”

In the end, appointing a new media agency, just like appointing any type of marketing services provider, is about building a trust between your marketing department and your agency team.

For those who have been putting it off out of a fear of the unknown, perhaps it’s time for you to get educated. All media was ‘new’ once, after all.

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