Agencies are a dime a dozen in the experiential space. Almost every day, another dozen seem to pop up and begin selling yet another variation of it. My favorite was the company selling advertising at bus stops and calling it experiential. It’s not; that’s called advertising!
One way you can truly evaluate an agency’s understanding of the industry is how they organize themselves on an operational basis. Agencies that operate through general-purpose employees on a programmatic level don’t tend to perform on a high level or perform consistently. They’re either a jack-of-all-trades or are farming out the work to third-party agencies.
Savvy clients know the drill with these guys:
- The agency pitch team is different from the program managers who are actually working on your business.
- The program mangers are actually the ones doing everything from developing the strategy, to managing the creative, to booking the talent.
- Even worse, when something goes wrong like a brand ambassador no-shows, you suddenly realize the talent was booked through a third-party agency.
Yep, you just got suckered! So what separates that type of mediocrity from greatness?
Okay, I admit I’m a little biased here. For my entire life I’ve been a producer, from creating events at Webster Hall, to large-scale footprints at NHRA, and concerts at Sundance. I have a unique perspective because I see what is required on the back end to make these productions shine and it all starts with effective strategy and client communication.
For an agency to be the best, it has to manage the entire product cycle from beginning to end. That requires specialization. Today, I manage teams dedicated to production, talent, and venues and sponsorship acquisitions—all of which provide a far superior end product.
They don’t need do-overs when it comes to putting programs on the road, and this specialization has taken us from being merely good to being great. Who wouldn’t want that?
Accomplishing Goals on a Team Level
What’s the point of building a million dollar pop-up or putting a vehicle on the road if the end consumer engagement doesn’t resonate? You need teams that can do their jobs and do it well.
- Booking the talent yourself allows you to motivate and keep your A-plus spokespeople without going through that endless cycle of missed expectations through third-party agencies which never seem to be around when you need them.
- A venues team enables you to negotiate bulk pricing at events and get better added value on the ground, your dollar goes further.
You can stretch your dollar by having employees take on multiple roles, but a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none. That’s not worth the discount!
Agencies with this specialization also foster greater team collaboration, and that leads to a higher degree of trust and better overall employee performance. This deep expertise separates the superior agencies in this industry from the others. With that comes the added benefit of creating a more diverse team and a robust set of values.
Years ago, I visited a small “experiential” shop and imagine my surprise when a week later, the receptionist I had met became the Director of Digital. Only weeks further down the road, the same person was promoted to the VP of Client Service.
If you are at an agency where you are literally doing everything, that’s a sure sign you’re working with an experiential sweatshop. You want an agency that understands what it truly takes to produce a superior product. That, my friends, is complete ownership of the product lifecycle. That’s what wins you business.