"There needs to be an honesty" - Metro & William Hill senior marketers discuss agency approaches to new business

Honesty and trust were two of the main themes to emerge from a panel session featuring senior marketers from Metro and William Hill.

Speaking at The Drum's Brief Encounters conference, Bryan Scott, marketing communications director for Metro and Kristof Fahy, chief marketing officer, William Hill discussed what they looked for from agencies they appointed, and both agreed that a fundamental issue was to be able to trust the agencies they worked with.

"It's the lies where people claim they have called three times or sent 10 emails and they haven't. I'd much rather someone call and ask if I have a few minutes, which I might," stated Scott. "It's that ability to be able to listen to what the person on the other end of the phone is saying to you, because if I tell them we're not interested, then don't try and sell me it again. The likelihood is I won't be able to make a snap decision there and then, I might not even agree to a meeting, but if I show some interest you'll probably get a sign of that, but don't try and force it on the first encounter."

Fahy agreed and prompted those gathered not to contact marketers through email. "It's lazy," he stated. "I literally delete every single one," he continued before explaining that creative direct mail was a more affective way of grabbing his attention.

He added that chemistry was another very important element and that agencies should not remove the "amazing" staff that win the pitch, as that is where the relationship breakdown can begin.

"I bought this lot, and you are giving me this lot. If the work is crap, then we are not giving them proper briefs, but if an agency is changing people, they are getting complacent after six months, then it's not good and it shows that they are not taking you seriously...I don't want a second tier client relationship because that's not what was promised at the beginning."

Scott also advised that agencies didn't hang the relationship around one person, but spread it out across several key people who represented the agency's ethos.

He continued: "There needs to be honesty from the client side as well. I am an eternal believer that you have to look internally before you lay any blame, and I will always hold my hands up and say we haven't done X,Y & Z. It is a relationship like any other, it's not something that is any different from anyone outside of work. Being able to have honest relationships with so many of our agencies has helped us develop a better relationship."

The two also suggested that when making an approach, agencies should spend time trying to understand and then attempt to offer insight into the business that they want to work with.

"Tell me what you know about my business. I'm not going to sit there for half an hour letting you into all the secrets of William Hill or what our challenges are, the things we are doing brilliantly - do you're homework. Read our annual report, get your names right, understand where we make our money and where we don't make our money...don't treat clients as stupid. They're not stupid. Send me something funny, make me laugh...stuff like that will get you in," stated Fahy, who also revealed that he was not 'a fan' of full-service agencies.

Scott continued: "Understand where it is that we are going and what they can deliver in that sense. The number of people who call and tell us that they work with The Telegraph or The Sun, they haven't taken the time to understand that we work with a different ursine as model and operate differently from them. Ultimately, as a marketeer I am looking for great marketeers to come and talk to me, the creativity that comes out of it and the ability to excite is incredible."

He continued to suggest that investing in researching and understanding a business before making the initial approach was the best approach in showing potential to a brand marketer and to then "get across your specialism early" during the initial meeting he advised as well,min order to make him question his existing relationships.

Both said that size of an agency was not an issue unless the project was dependent upon it being of a larger size and also agreed that using agency credentials were not what they were looking to be presented with by agencies.

"Make sure your website is mobile optimised and that your latest work is on there," suggested Fahy who added that marketers would do their own research and told the audience not to lie about the clients that the agency has worked with, as they would be found out.

"The more honest you can be about your experience the better as it started the relationship off on the wrong footing and puts a niggle in the back of your head that something is not quite right here," he added.

Fahy also suggested that agencies look to send secondments internally within their clients marketing teams in a bid to improve their relationship and understanding of a business, adding that he didn't believe that agencies were being "creative enough" when considering such ideas.

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