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The Drum Marketing Awards judges' top 10 tips on hiring agencies: McDonalds, DFS, Renault, Camelot, Gumtree, Butlins, Samsung,


By Stephen Lepitak, -

April 16, 2013 | 7 min read

This week sees agency and brand intermediary the Recommended Agency Register (RAR) host its annual awards, while The Drum Marketing Awards are just weeks away from being announced. The Drum took some time with some of the judges from this year’s DMAs to get their top 10 tips for marketers when seeking to appoint a new agency.

Advice:'s Oliver Garner offered some tips

1.) Does the agency understand your brand?

"What you're looking for is an understanding of what the brand is and where you need to take it. Sometimes you have to make sure that you are not necessarily wowed by the whizz and bang of the whole shooting match. You need to ask whether the agency is flexible to what you want to do and do they truly understand the identity of your brand and what is coming over the next few years so you can work with them." - Ed Preston, head of strategy and planning, commercial operations at Renault

2.) Make sure they've done their research

"When it comes to appointing an agency it’s about them listening as much as understanding and having insight into your business. I am always frustrated when someone comes in that hasn't done their homework and it does happen. You can tell the sloppiness of agencies and how seriously they are taking the opportunity depending on what it is. Before you go into pitch, it's at that stage you find whether agencies really understand. I believe in transparency when it comes to pitching and I would rather someone saying 'we want to focus on this approach' - but I was flabbergasted that some people didn't even know the basics." - Richard Bateson, commercial director for Camelot

3.) Make sure your pitching team will be your account team

"The biggest thing that I've learned through agency pitching and appointing agencies is making sure that the people who are pitching are the same ones who will be working on your business. Quite often agencies will have a team that pitch to you, and part of the decision for selecting that agency is down to that rapport, relationship and the trust that you've built with that team. then suddenly they introduce a new account team." - Jo Webster, head of marketing for McDonald's

4.) Rank your agencies to avoid making a mistake

"You should be clear what you are trying to solve through an agency partner. What does your business need over the next few years? It's a long process so you should aim to have an agency that you plan to work with over a long period of time. Establish a clear criteria and then proceed to rank agencies in order to avoid any inconsistency over how you're feeling that day or how warm the meeting room is to give you a clearer view. I find that a great way to get additional stakeholders' input and consistency from people across the business." - Hamish Stone, head of marketing at Gumtree

5.) Get to know your agency

"There are different types of meetings that you should go through to really understand who these individuals are that are going to be working on your business and look at the types of processes that they have while getting them to be very clear on how they will answer your brief or manage a project. For us, you should go through a very detailed process of ticking all of those types of boxes from the people to their processes, how they will charge you for their service, you need to be very thorough with all of those as you go through the process." - Hamish Stone, head of marketing at Gumtree

6.) Get in sync

"Agencies have to be in sync with your organisation. You need to tell them 'This is the way I work and you need to be in sync with me'. An agency’s flexibility and adaptability to really get in sync with their clients is key." - Andrew Garrihy, former director of corporate marketing at Samsung Electronics

7.) Consider quality versus cost

"Be clear what your goals are from the outset and plan for the long term so that you really know how far you want your agency to integrate with your business and where you want them to be supporting you. But also be aware of exactly what measurement techniques you are going to be putting in place to measure their effectiveness. Be pragmatic in terms of what is in the marketplace as well and what you're looking for in terms of quality versus cost. It will always come back down to that." - Oliver Garner, senior marketing manager at

8.) Your agency must have strong business acumen

"You need an agency with a really strong business acumen. They really need to get business and be quite commercially aware as well. For us as marketers, it's a tough balance for an agency. How do I have absolute creativity, innovation, drive, freedom and flexibility while being very commercial and in sync with my client who may not know what's best for them? It's tough." - Andrew Garrihy, former director of corporate marketing at Samsung Electronics

9.) Is your agency part of the value chain?

"We talk about a value chain at Butlins going through everyone in the business and it doesn't matter whether you're on the phone selling or you're an archery coach or you're the MD - they all have equal value to the guest if they happen to be in that person's thoughts at that time. I want an agency to be part of my value chain as well and to be able to trust them and feel like they are in a real partnership." - Jae Hopkins, head of communications for Butlin’s

10.) Like each other

"Work with people you like because it's a given in terms of competence. You need to be able to work with these people." - Helen Normoyle, chief marketing officer at DFS

"If I don't like the people I'm working with then it's scuppered before we've even begun." - Jae Hopkins, head of communications for Butlins

More information on the RAR Awards and The Drum Marketing Awards can be found on their respective websites.

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