The Drum head of consulting's Steve Antoniewicz answers some questions about The Drum Consulting offer, including the background behind the service, which was formerly the Recommended Agency Register, and some plans for its future.
When was it founded?
We have really been offering consulting services since 2007. The Drum was the first publisher to recognise the value of a research-based intermediary service when we launched RAR. At the time those services were focused sole agency search and selection. In 2016 we decided to integrate more closely with The Drum and this also meant we could meet the broader demand from clients for services beyond simply agency search. And now with The Drum Consulting we will be providing strategic counsel to both brands and agencies in this rather complex and ever-changing ecosystem. We are also putting together a fortified team of experts to help companies improve their marketing performance.
Exciting days are ahead of us.
What does it do?
Using the power of The Drum, we advise clients on a range of topics. Sourcing and selecting the right agencies is still a big part of what we do. But with access to The Drum’s insight and knowledge on global marketing and media we can also help clients to plan better, brief better and manage their agency relationships more effectively.
We’ve recently been working on an agency benchmarking and evaluation project, the selection a new strategic comms agency for a global drinks brand and a brand planning and strategy project for a new automotive brand.
In an oversupplied advertising market and the growing complexity of pitches, what role does an agency consultancy play?
Most marketing clients today are head down in their own businesses. Changes in consumer behaviour, the transformation agenda, organisational change and digital technology have impacted on every sector, never mind economic uncertainty in key markets. The result is less time to step back and think, less time to know what’s going on outside their own businesses, less time to consider new models, agencies, vendors that might be able to help them. This is why most marketing performance is average at best, especially as chief marketing officer (CMO) tenure continues to decrease. And for those seemingly small organisations, simple details are literally burning marketing money.
What is unique about The Drum consultancy?
The fact is that there are lots of consultants out there but I don’t know of many who can offer the kind of global insight and access to the market that we have at The Drum. We also have a pool of experts that we can call on for specific tasks when needed. Areas like mar-tech, Data/CRM, Media and e-commerce need a level of specialism and our consultants are experienced leaders in these areas from both client and agency backgrounds.
What are the most critical elements during the pitch process?
For me, the most critical part is the beginning. Too many clients rush into the selection without thinking about the fundamentals. A poor brief, the wrong requirements, inaccurate budgets can all influence the selection of the wrong partners who can’t fulfil what’s expected. Compressed timelines lead to a rush to execute, the relationship starts under pressure and frustration quickly builds until lo and behold there’s another pitch or a new CMO in 18 months time and the cycle continues. Clients that plan ahead, pay due respect to the process and the agencies involved tend to be those who get the best return.
This criticism is as old as the hills — that clients’ budgets are seldom clear upfront, or that they don’t give adequate access to key stakeholders during the pitch process or even that sometimes the number of agencies involved in the pitches is kept secret — what then is the role of a consultant?
A good consultant will be the quiet voice of reason for a client, a trusted advisor with the distance from the day-to-day business to see the bigger picture. An independent voice who can guide, support and activate the plans of the senior client when required. A good consultant should always be in the background providing the support the main protagonist needs. See Tom Hagen to Vito Corleone for reference
Besides costs and quality, what other insights do you bring in for brands looking to review their agency relationships?
When it comes to mapping the markets for clients we are extremely well-placed. We operate multiple award schemes which span the best of creative marketing and media (Drum Marketing Awards, the DADIs, Momas, etc). We run and attend many of the best conferences (Cannes Lions, Dmexco, Future of Marketing, Programmatic Punch, Media Slap) in the sector. We have access to a team of journalists who are extremely well connected to what’s happening on the ground. And we have unique insight tools and studies (The Drum Recommends, The Big Won, census products and research) which help us track changes across marketing and media sectors.
Collectively this means we can quickly identify the best work in any client category, the best partners for any particular task and the best people to hire. It’s a broad perspective that also means that the advice we give has real world context beyond the client problem.
Plus, we work with a network of the most experienced consultants in the sector.
With fewer advertising reviews taking place these days due to client consolidation, and shrinking budgets, how does The Drum Consultancy nurture client-agency relationship?
More often than not, the most effective work which drives long-term value for a brand is delivered by a trusted partner. Developing this kind of relationships requires patience, understanding and experience, three elements that can be in short supply in corporate culture today.
We offer advice and guidance to marketing teams that can help them achieve better, longer and more productive relationships with agency partners. It’s amazing how many very small, simple things can obstruct the delivery of good work and become magnified. It sometimes takes our completely neutral point-of-view to be able to spot and solve problems.